Thursday, May 2, 2013

American Citizen Sentenced to 15 Years in a North Korean Labor Camp

In this March 20, 2013 photo, a North Korean flag hangs inside the interior of Pyongyang’s Supreme Court.   

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American who lives in Washington state, was condemned to 15 years of hard labor by a North Korean court this week, prompting rumors of a possible diplomatic rescue mission. Bae, who is a frequent visitor to North Korea, was arrested last November and accused of "hostile acts" against the state, though no one is actually sure what he's specifically accused of or how he might have done it. Friends say Bae runs tours for foreign visitors to the DPRK but often uses the trips an opportunity to help the nation's orphans.

Don't worry too much about Bae's fate, however. Of the last six Americans to be arrested in North Korea, all were deported or released without serving their sentence. (Although we're sure any amount of time spent in a North Korean jail cell can't be very pleasant.) One expert on the region calls his conviction "bait" to lure a high-profile ambassador to Pyongyang for negotiations, as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have done in the past. South Korean media has already been speculating about Carter possibly returning to secure Bae's release.

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