American missionary Kenneth Bae, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, was released after two years and returned to the U.S. last Saturday, November 8.
Upon his arrival, his family was discussing their favorite Korean restaurants but Bae, 46, wasn’t interested. “I don’t want Korean food. That’s all I’ve been eating for the last two years,” his sister Terri Chung recalled Bae saying. The family bought a Papa John’s pizza and went to Starbucks the next day.
Bae was initially imprisoned two years ago while leading a tour group through an economic zone in North Korea. The primary reason given for his detainment was anti-government activities, a typical North Korean reason for imprisonment.
Bae was moved to a different prison in May 2013, where he was required to do eight hours of hard farm labor every day. His health began to deteriorate. When asked about his health while in prison, Bae replied, “…people here are very considerate. But my health is not in the best condition, so there are some difficulties.”
After losing fifty pounds, Bae was transferred to a hospital, where he was allowed brief visits with his mother and a Swedish ambassador. Bae was eventually returned to the labor camp and released November 8.
Even after the ordeal, Bae still said he “still has a tremendous heart for North Korea” and “bears no ill will” towards the closed country that held him captive for two years. Bae also thanked the people who prayed for him.
Supposed American “spy” Matthew Todd Miller was released at the same time as Bae, and American Jeffrey Fowle, who allegedly left a Bible in his hotel, was released last month. Laura Ling, an American journalist freed from a North Korean prison in 2009, said, “I hope their release is a signal of a potential opening between our two countries and that despite our stark differences we may find a common humanity.”