(Voice of the Persecuted) For 14 consecutive years, North Korea (DPRK) has topped the World Watch List as the worst place in the world to be a Christian. Christianity is seen as an addiction, Western and something to be despised. North Korean Christians must hide their faith or risk spending years in hard labor camps and tortured under unspeakable treatment and conditions. Back on U.S. soil, Kenneth Bae, an American Christian who was imprisoned then released, continues to be threatened by the North Korean government. Kenneth Bae was the longest serving United States prisoner in North Korea.
Before his detention in North Korea, Bae was surrounded by friends, hosting meals and entertaining with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis tunes. He was the fun-loving uncle who showered his nieces with affection. He dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. And after coming home late from working two jobs, he’d spend hours watching his baby son sleep. Kenneth is a man who always does the right thing, no matter the cost.
Years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people…to reflect the light of Christ.
On one of the many tours he had led through Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), a special economic zones for foreign investors, Kenneth was arrested by North Korean authorities on Nov. 3, 2012. He was sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp for what the DPRK identified as “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.
As Ken was being held by one of the world’s most brutal governments, his family and friends in the U.S rallied for his release. Their voices drew the attention of media outlets who than began covering Ken’s unjust imprisonment.
Kenneth’s family and friends connected with Voice of the Persecuted asking VOP to encourage the Body of Christ to pray and intercede for Kenneth. They also asked for help in closing the petition his son, Johnathon started—doing what we could to help gain Kenneth’s freedom.
In a video interview with Bae released in July 2013, he spoke of his deteriorating health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and back problems. A month later he was moved to a Hospital due to his worsening health and reports claimed he had lost more than 50lbs.
Alarmed by Kenneth’s appearance his mother, Myunghee Bae pleaded with DPRK to allow a visit with her son. Her request was granted by DPRK authorities to arrive in Oct., 2013. Prior to the trip, she discussed her concerns and asks for continued prayers. During her stay, she was allowed three visits, totaling six hours.
In January 2014, Kenneth’s mother, and sister, Terri Chung attended President Obama’s State of the Union address. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) had offered the seats to them. Terri, his mother, as well as Kenneth’s son, Jonathan Bae met with public figures in New York and Washington DC, uniting with the goal of seeing Kenneth released from detention in North Korea.
Terri, Myunghee, and Jonathan also met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Below is a statement from his sister:
“We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the US State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.
The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.
I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth’s freedom.”
Kenneth Bae was sent back to the labor camp in January 2014. You can view his family’s emotional plea in this video interview on CNN.
Kenneth Bae spoke out about the harsh conditions at the labor camp where he is being held in North Korea. He told a Swedish diplomat that he was in great pain and longed to be back with his family. In March 2014, Bae was re-admitted to a hospital in Pyongyang but was again sent back to the labor camp. His sister, Terri feared for her brother’s serious health conditions afraid he may not survive in the labor camp. See our Sept. 2014 report.
In the early part of November 2014, his family shared the update we all had been waiting for. The U.S. State Department informed them that he had left North Korean airspace and was on a plane bound for the United States. He had been released!
They thanked the United States government, the DPRK government for allowing him to come home, and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their tireless efforts in advocating for Ken. They also expressed their gratitude for everyone across the world who continued to advocate and pray for Kenneth.
We at Voice of the Persecuted still rejoice with great thanks to our almighty God for our brother’s freedom. When in the flesh it appears there is no hope, we can always trust our God to do the impossible! Never giving up, constant in prayer and trusting He would do a great thing in this most turbulent storm, in His time. VOP believes Ken’s release was an answer to our many prayers, a miracle to bring glory to our heavenly Father.
Since his return, Bae had been quiet as he recovered and healed from the physical and emotional abuse he received in North Korea. But he’s finally sharing the full story surrounding his arrest and imprisonment in his book, Not Forgotten.
Not Forgotten is a modern story of intrigue, suspense, and heart. Driven by his passion to help the people of North Korea, Bae moved to China to lead guided tours into the secretive nation. Six years later, after eighteen successful excursions in and out of the country, Ken was suddenly stopped at the border: he inadvertently brought his hard drive, that revealed the true nature of his visits. He was arrested, brought to Pyongyang for further questioning, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. His crime? Attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. He wondered if he would ever see his family again.
From the first harrowing moments of his ordeal to his release—and even today—Ken never wavers in his love for the North Korean people, even his captors. Not Forgotten is both a compelling narrative of one man’s dedication to serving the less fortunate and a modern testament of a missionary forced to rely solely on God who sent him into dangerous territory. Ken’s book gives a rare, firsthand account of life inside the most shrouded country on the planet, meeting its people, experiencing their daily lives, taking in the landscape, and encountering the tyranny of a totalitarian regime. With its combined spiritual and secular appeal, this never-before-told story is sure to captivate and inspire readers of all ages. Get your copy of Ken’s book HERE
Since the release of Not Forgotten, Bae has shared his experiences during multiple public appearances and given interviews to promote the book. Bae was recently interviewed by a defector-run group in South Korea that broadcasts into the North. For translated version of Bae’s interview with Unification Media Group, use this ip address http://bit.ly/28Iu8fy
But North Korea is threatening Kenneth to keep silent about his imprisonment in the country.
On Monday, they warned they will not negotiate with the U.S. over two American citizens it is holding until former detainee Kenneth Bae stops publicly talking about his time in prison.
21-year-old student of the University of Virginia, Otto Warmbier was sentenced in March to 15 years’ hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner bearing the name of former leader Kim Jong Il. In April, a North Korean court convicted Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 10 years’ hard labor.
Quoting the state KCNA news agency of North Korea,
“As long as Kenneth Bae continues his babbling, we will not proceed with any compromise or negotiations with the United States on the subject of American criminals, and there will certainly not be any such thing as humanitarian action,”
“If Bae continues, U.S. criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again.
Please keep Kenneth Bae and those persecuted by the North Korean government. Pray the hearts of authorities be soften and oppression no longer exist in the nation.