The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has again rescinded its offer to allow a U.S. envoy to visit Pyongyang to negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, an American who has been held by the reclusive country since November 2012. Bae, who entered the country undercover as a tourist, secretly hoped to work in the border town of Rason as a missionary. He was arrested and convicted by the North Korean government for plotting to “destroy our system through religious activities against our republic.” He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in one of North Korea’s infamous labor camps but so far has spent most of his time in a sub-standard hospital receiving care for numerous medical issues.
This is not the first time that North Korea has detained an American citizen despite demands for release from the U.S. state department, but usually there is a trick to freeing Americans in North Korea. In their attempt to gain recognition from the rest of the world, the highest echelons of the North Korea administration like to reject negotiation envoys until they feel like the leader of the envoy is prestigious enough. In 2009, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were not released until former president Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to negotiate with then-leader Kim Jung Il. Currently, the U.S. state department has only proposed to send Ambassador Robert King, Washington’s special envoy for human rights in Korea, and unfortunately, that probably isn’t good enough for North Korea. Until the State Department can muster a delegation with more political clout and name recognition to stroke the egos of Kim Jung Un and his top ministers, Bae has little hope of leaving North Korea.
Photo Credit: Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters