NORTH Korea released one American captive on Friday, but a second U.S. citizen remains trapped. Kenneth Bae must not be forgotten.
As media attention focuses on the return of Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old tourist and Korean war veteran, following his six-week imprisonment, the U.S. State Department is again calling on North Korea to grant the same amnesty to Bae as a humanitarian gesture.
Bae, a former Washington state resident, has been held by North Korean authorities since Nov. 3, 2012, longer than any other American in recent history. He was hospitalized last summer with several illnesses.
Like Newman, Bae entered the country legally (the former was a tourist; the latter a tour operator). Both were accused of committing “hostile acts” against the state, but the regime sentenced Bae to 15 years of hard labor.
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According to news reports, North Korean officials let Newman go because of his advanced age and his “sincere” apology. Bae expressed similar remorse in a prison video released last July. His family’s repeated pleas to North Korea for forgiveness have also been ignored.
Though Vice President Joe Biden — in South Korea Saturday — called Newman’s release a “positive” move, he points out the regime’s double standard: “(T)hey still have Mr. Bae, who has no reason being held in the North (and) should be released immediately.”
Without formal relations between the U.S. and North Korea, Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang have helped to monitor Bae’s condition. But as his parents and sister in Lynnwood and Edmonds prepare for their second Christmas without him, they worry his health will continue to deteriorate.
Fortunately, Merrill Newman is on his way home to Palo Alto.
The Bae family deserves assurances from U.S. officials that their loved one will not be abandoned.