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Kenneth Bae, American imprisoned in North Korea, pleads for freedom

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2013

An American who has been imprisoned in North Korea for months, and who faces 15 years of hard labor for accused crimes against the dictatorial government, has a message for the United States: Try harder to win my freedom.

In his first media interview since November, when he was arrested, Kenneth Bae told a Tokyo newspaper that he wished he could have made an Independence Day exit from jail. Thursday was not only the Fourth of July, but his father's birthday, he said, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Bae is a Washington state resident who was arrested in North Korea in late 2012 after it was alleged he was using his tour guide position to communicate anti-government messages — deemed "hostile acts" against the North Korean authorities, various media reported.

In May, he was put in a "special prison," AP reported, and rises every morning at 6 a.m. and works the farm for 12 hours. He is allowed Sundays and holidays to rest.

But he wishes the United States would "try harder" to win him amnesty, Mr. Bae said, AP said.

"July 4th is my father's 70th birthday, so I was hoping that my problem [would] be worked out," he said, AP reported. "So my hope is that North Korea will forgive, and the U.S. will try harder to get me out quickly. I'm asking for their help."

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Patrick Ventrell, had issued a statement in May about Mr. Bae: "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of our U.S. citizens abroad, as I've said many times. ... [The U.S. urges North Korea] to grant Mr. Bae amnesty and immediate release."

The AP reported that the U.S. has yet to announce plans for a government envoy to travel to North Korea to petition for Mr. Bae's release in person.

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