State Department calls for release of Washington resident from North Korea

May 2, 2013

The State Department is asking Thursday that North Korea free Kenneth Bae, a man from Lynnwood who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor Wednesday.

The North Koreans had accused Bae of plotting to overthrow of their government.

Bae’s conviction came after a short trial in Pyongyang, with few observers to say whether it was fair.
The State Department says no one from the Swedish embassy, which represents the US in North Korea, was at the trial.

Patrick Ventrell of the State Department says North Korea should grant Kenneth Bae amnesty and let him come home. “The change is now that they’re saying it would be fifteen years of hard labor, given that they’ve made that legal determination under their system with which we’ve raised our concerns and have issues with their transparency" says Ventrell.  "We’d now like them to provide him amnesty and immediate release."

A reporter then asked Ventrell “Do you regard him as a political pawn, some kind of a hostage?” 

“I don’t know if I’d characterize the case this way. There is a lack of information. I know for instance that the Swedish embassy did not attend the trial and so - Part of this is we’ve tried to receive additional information. And we’d like for him to be released." says Ventrell.

Past detentions of Americans in North Korean have led to visits from high-profile Americans, such as former president Bill Clinton.

The head of a North Korean studies think-tank in South Korea, is being quoted today saying Pyongyang may be angling for another visit. The State Department did not say it was making plans to send another dignitary.

Copyright 2013 KUOW