North Korea Cancels US Envoy for Kenneth Bae

Feb 10, 2014

The Seattle-area family of a man held in North Korea says their hopes fell again this week. For the second time, North Korea rescinded its invitation for a US envoy to discuss the American's possible release.

North Korea rescinded its invitation for a U.S. envoy to discuss the possible release of Kenneth Bae for the second time.

Kenneth Bae's family members count the days since his imprisonment in North Korea. Monday marked day number 474.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, says it’s been an emotional roller-coaster…especially this past week.

"We were holding our breath that this could be the time. Then to find out, once again, that it was canceled once again two days later was devastating," Chung says. 

The US state department confirmed Monday that North Korea withdrew its invitation for a high-level diplomat to visit.

Bae's parents and sister live in the suburbs of Seattle. But he's lived in China for the past several years and traveled to North Korea as a tour operator.

In 2012, the North accused Bae of anti-government activities. He was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Chung says her brother was able to make a rare call home recently...just a few days after Christmas.

"He said he was doing OK - those were his words. That was the very first time he got to talk to his children in the last 15 months so that was really emotional and heartbreaking to watch," Chung says. 

Chung says her family remains deeply worried about Bae's health in the labor camp. He was hospitalized last year after losing 50 pounds.

Bae’s family has also met with Reverend Jesse Jackson, who’s offered to help seek Bae's release. But again, the North would need to grant permission for that visit.

US officials, including President Obama, have repeatedly called for Bae's immediate release.

Copyright 2014 KUOW