WASHINGTON — The State Department is again calling for the immediate release of an American sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea, saying his health is deteriorating and he’s been hospitalized in Pyongyang.
Spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday the North should grant amnesty to 45-year-old Kenneth Bae, a tour operator and Christian missionary from Lynnwood who was arrested last November and accused of subversive activities against the government. He was sentenced in May to 15 years hard labor, and in letters to his family he described working in the fields weeding and planting beans and potatoes.
Washington has previously called for Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds.
His sister, Terri Chung, of Edmonds, said Sunday the family recently learned that he has been transferred from the labor camp to a hospital. Her brother has diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain, she said. “He’s considerably weaker,” Chung said. “There’s more urgency than ever to bring him home.”
A deputy ambassador from Sweden met with Bae at the hospital Friday, Chung said. Sweden represents American interests in North Korea because the U.S. has no official diplomatic relations with the country.