Americans detained in North Korea appeal for help
Three US citizens held in North Korea pleaded Monday for help to secure their release, urging Washington to send an envoy to the hardline communist country.
Washington: Three US citizens held in North Korea pleaded Monday for help to secure their release, urging Washington to send an envoy to the hardline communist country.
As government minders looked on, the three, who appeared tense, also said they had been well treated in the autocratic state.
"Continue to pray for me," Kenneth Bae, the longest-held detainee, said in a message to family and friends in a highly unusual interview with CNN.
Bae, 46, said he was working eight hours a day, six days a week at a lobar camp, but added he had been treated "as humanely as possible."
Bae, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller were speaking at a hotel in the capital Pyongyang.
CNN described the circumstances leading up to the interviews as "bizarre," saying its crew was on a government tour outside Pyongyang when it was told they were to meet with a high-level government official in the city and whisked to a secret location.
Bae was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years` hard labor on charges of seeking to topple the North Korean government.
Fowle, 56, entered the North on April 29 and was arrested after reportedly leaving a Bible at a hotel.
"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.
Fowle, saying he had "no complaints" about his treatment, suggested former US presidents Bill Clinton or George Bush be dispatched as special envoys for talks on his release.
Miller, 24, was arrested in April after he apparently ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.
North Korea said in July it would put Miller and Fowle on trial on unspecified charges related to "perpetrating hostile acts."
Miller, too, pleaded for help from the US government.
"My situation is very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison," he said, adding he would not learn the charges until he goes on trial.
Bae said he needed Washington`s help because his health was failing.
"So I do ask the US government and the people out there to really put effort to send somebody to make it work," he said.
All three men said they signed statements admitting their guilt, CNN reported.
Bae began serving his sentence in May 2013.
"I`ve been the only prisoner in the camp for the last year and a half. I didn`t have anybody else in the camp other than the guard," he said.
North Korea, which tightly controls religious expression, accused Bae of being a militant Christian evangelist and charged him with seeking to topple the regime.
In an interview published in July, Bae -- photographed in a prison uniform with the number 103 on his chest -- said he felt abandoned by US authorities.
At that time, he said he was suffering from serious lung and liver ailments.Bae`s family has voiced fear that he is being used as a bargaining chip by North Korea.
In an initial reaction, his sister Terri Chung said it was clear from the video that her brother, who wore a button-down shirt and sat on a chair during the interview, was under a lot of stress.
"It is really difficult to watch because Kenneth is, you know, kind of full of life and very cheerful kind of a person," she told CNN from the west coast US city of Seattle.
"And it is clear from the video that he is under a lot of stress. And he talks about his health failing and being in complete isolation for almost two years. And it is devastating for our family to see that on TV."
The US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, has twice tried to visit the North to secure Bae`s release, only for Pyongyang to cancel at the last minute on both occasions.
Last month a representative from Sweden, which handles US interests in the North, visited Bae at his labor camp.