THE FAMILY OF KENNETH BAE, AN AMERICAN CURRENTLY HELD CAPTIVE IN NORTH KOREA, DEMANDS THAT THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT INTERVENE AND PLEAD WITH NORTH KOREAN PRESIDENT FOR “MERCY” – ON “CBS THIS MORNING”
BAE’S MOTHER, MYUNG HEE, TELLS CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT MARGARET BRENNAN: “I WANT TO ASK THEM, SEND AN ENVOY OR DO SOMETHING - AS A MOTHER, I AM REALLY GETTING ANGRY”
Myung Hee, mother of Kenneth Bae, an American man currently serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile crimes against the state” in North Korea, said she doesn’t see any effort by the U.S. to help free her son, in an interview that was broadcast today, July 25, 2013, on CBS THIS MORNING (7:00-9:00 AM) on the CBS Television Network.
“I don't see any action,” Hee told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan. “I want to ask them, send an envoy or do something. As a mother, I am really getting angry. Really getting angry. What do they do?”
Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, told Brennan that if she had a chance to speak to North Korean President Kim Jong-un, she would “ask for his mercy,” adding that her brother is “a good man” who “maybe made some wrong choices.”
Excerpts from the interview are below.
This is Kenneth Bae in happier times - at home on the West Coast with his young niece. Today he is working in the fields of a North Korean prison camp. The 44-year-old father of two was a tour operator and Christian missionary who had entered the country legally over a dozen times - until he was detained last November and sentenced to serve 15 years of hard labor. The charges include "hostile acts" against the state, namely, plotting a coup. His sister, Terri Chung, disputed the charges, but acknowledged the North Koreans may have considered his religious convictions to be threatening.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And what did you think after you saw some of those charges? I mean, among them they were saying he was trying to plot a coup. Is that something that your brother would do?
TERRI CHUNG: All I know is that my brother is a good man. He's an idealist, and a man of strong convictions, and he may have been maybe a little overzealous, and maybe made some wrong choices.
Two weeks ago, the family received an unusual package of handwritten letters from Kenneth. He begged for their help and said he is going blind, his health is failing due to diabetes and a heart condition. Days later, a pro-North Korean news agency released a startling video showing Kenneth noticeably thin and emotional. He asked his captors for forgiveness.
TERRI CHUNG: The sound my mother made when she watched that video, I will never forget. It was just the most heart wrenching, almost like an animal in pain.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What did you do when you saw the video?
TERRI CHUNG: We cried a lot. This was my brother speaking from prison, and we needed to let people know that his health was failing and we needed to seek help to get him out and get him home.
Bae has been detained longer than any previous American prisoner. And while Terri and her parents have a weekly call with the State Department, they do not believe that the U.S. is doing enough to get Kenneth released.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why are you losing faith?
MYUNG HEE, KENNETH’S MOTHER: I don't see any action. I want to ask them, send an envoy or do something. As a mother, I am really getting angry. Really getting angry. What do they do?
In the past, former presidents or high-profile figures like Gov. Bill Richardson have helped to bring Americans home. Richardson told me that no envoy is scheduled to go, but he did meet with the North Korean ambassador at the UN.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON: You try to read things as much as you can but... his message was pretty harsh, it was not good. It was Kenneth Bae's there for a while, no high-profile rescue this time. We're not going to go easy on this. He committed a crime. We have no relationship, no dialogue, so that's the way it's going to be.
But for the Bae family, politics don't matter. They just want Kenneth back home.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If you had a message you could speak directly to President Kim, what would you ask him?
TERRI CHUNG: I would ask for his mercy.
Click here to watch the clip.
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Chris Licht is the Vice President of Programming, CBS News, and Executive Producer of CBS THIS MORNING.
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