PYONGYANG, North Korea — Two American missionaries that have been detained in North Korea spoke during an interview with CNN on Monday, pleading for the U.S. to work more diligently for their release.
Kenneth Bae and Jeffrey Fowle sat down with reporter Will Ripley as they were granted five minutes each to send messages to their friends and family, and discuss a limited number of topics.
“Right now, what I can say to my friends and family is continue to pray for me and continue in efforts in getting me released [from] here,” Bae told Ripley.
As previously reported, Bae, who operates a tourist company in Washington state, was arrested not far from the city of Yanji in November 2012, where some Christian groups provide aid to North Korean refugees. It is stated that Bae has made a number of trips to North Korea to assist orphaned children.
While the exact reason for his charges of committing “hostile [and religious] acts to bring down the government” has not been made known, Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. He has been struggling with his health while serving his sentence, which includes eight hour work days six days a week.
“I’ve been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half,” Bae stated during Monday’s interview. “My hands are numb and tingling, and it’s difficult sleeping at night, and I was working in the field every day.”
Bae, who has made at least one video appearance in the past, again asked for the U.S. to work toward his release.
“I’ve been asking the American government to act upon getting me released here,” he said. “I do believe that a special envoy needs to come in order to resolve the situation I am in right now.”
American tourist Jeffrey Fowle made similar remarks to CNN, remarking that he has become “desperate” for help. As previously reported, Fowle has been held since mid-May after it was discovered that he left a Bible in a hotel room. He was was questioned on suspicion of using his visit as a tourist inappropriately.
“I’m good for the time being, but I need to let people know that I’m getting desperate. I’m getting desperate for help,” he said. “You guys should convey my desperate situation.”
He suggested that former Presidents Bill Clinton or George W. Bush serve as envoys to negotiate his release.
“I’ve got a wife and three elementary school-aged kids that depend on me for support,” he stated.
Matthew Todd Miller also was interviewed by CNN as he has been detained in the country since April after ripping up his visa. His alleged crime is not based on missionary activity.
The United States has released several statements calling for the release of the men. The Obama administration reiterated its plea following the release of the video.
“Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller and their families, we request the DPRK release them so they may return home,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stataed. “We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.”