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Family of Christian American Imprisoned by North Korea Speaks Out

ICC Note: It is still unclear why Kenneth Bae, an American citizen and Christian, was recently sentenced to 15 years of labor camp in North Korea. Some sources have speculated that his arrest had to do with the Kenneth's concern and desire to care for orphans in North Korea or other possible missionary activities. The United States has called for Kenneth to be released, but the autocratic North Korean regime, one of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world, seems unlikely to release Kenneth soon. 

5/6/2013 North Korea (UCA News) - Family members of imprisoned U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae have taken to the airwaves for the first time since his arrest six months ago in Rajin, North Korea, with his sister telling CNN that the Christian tour operator is not a spy.

Bae, an ethnic Korean and naturalized U.S. citizen, was sentenced this week to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp for alleged acts deemed threatening to the government. He was arrested Nov. 3, 2012, while in Rason City (formerly Rajin) reportedly while leading a tour with five Europeans. The government-run Korean Central News Agency, which announced the 15-year sentence, had revealed over the weekend that Bae was charged with "committing crimes aimed at toppling the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with hostility towards it," according to The Independent.

However, Bae's sister, Terri Chung, denied those claims during an interview with CNN Thursday night.

"You know, Kenneth is a good man; he's not a spy. He has never had any evil intentions against North Korea, or any other country for that matter," Chung told Anderson Cooper. She added that Pae Jun Ho, the Korean name by which Bae is known, had visited the reclusive communist country on at least five occasions last year and never had any problems before.

"We just pray and ask for leaders of both nations to please, just see him as one man, caught in between," Chung added. "He's a father to three children and we just ask that he be allowed to come home."

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David Ross, who told Reuters news agency that Bae is a committed Christian, is director of a missionary training center at Antioch World Ministries Inc. in Monroe, Wash. He told Reuters that Bae "has feelings for orphans and has done some ministry work feeding orphans." Ross and Bae reportedly met four years ago through church affiliations in Hawaii and have been "casual acquaintances" since.

Chung said Bae lives in China with his wife, and gives guided tours to North Korea.

She was unable to confirm reports that have suggested Bae might have been arrested for taking photos of orphans in North Korea.

"I don't know the specifics about that. I think he could have because of who he is and he's generous in giving, maybe he could have delivered bread to orphanages once or twice, but I really don't know if that is the reason," said Chung. "We are baffled just like anybody else why a man like my brother could be arrested."

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