Kenneth Bae (right), who had been detained in North Korea since 2012, talks to reporters after arriving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma after he was freed in 2014. At left is his sister, Terri Chung. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Kenneth Bae (right), who had been detained in North Korea since 2012, talks to reporters after arriving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma after he was freed in 2014. At left is his sister, Terri Chung. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Former prisoner Bae decries North Korea’s latest ‘outrage’

LYNNWOOD — A Lynnwood man once held prisoner in North Korea said he is praying for the family of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died Monday after his release last week from the isolated communist country.

Kenneth Bae, 48, posted a statement on his Facebook page on Monday.

In it, he said he grieves for Warmbier’s family. Warmbier was convicted of stealing a political propaganda poster and was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Warmbier, 22, who’d been a junior at the University of Virginia at the time of his arrest, lapsed into a coma while in North Korean custody. He was held prisoner more than a year.

Bae also had been given a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-government activities. He was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group to a North Korea economic zone. He was released in 2014 with fellow captive Matthew Miller.

“For North Korea to detain him and sentence him to 15 years in prison was an injustice,” Bae wrote. “But for Otto to be returned to the U.S. in the state he was in — and then for him to die because of it — is not only an outrage, but it is a tragedy for his entire family.”

”No words can ease this pain, but we can pray for them,” Bae wrote. “It’s my hope and prayer that they also know others in America are mourning with them and will not forget their son and brother.”

Bae, a Christian missionary, reminded his social media followers that there are other Americans as well as a Canadian pastor who remain detained in North Korea.

He urged the U.S. government, the international community, and leadership in North Korea to value human life.

”I am a Christian, and part of what that means is to act justly and to have mercy on the innocent,” Bae wrote. “Although we don’t know everything about life in North Korea, this much is sure: innocent people like Otto are suffering. I pray that these innocent people suffering in North Korea are not forgotten in this high-stakes game of weapons, sanctions, and international diplomacy.”

In 2016, Bae published a book describing his experience. It is titled: “Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea.” He’d made 18 successful trips to and from the country before he was stopped at the border and arrested. During his detention, he lost roughly 60 pounds.

In March 2016, Bae also spoke out in Warmbier’s behalf, urging others to advocate for the young man’s release as they had done for him.

“We have a lot of influence as Americans,” he wrote at the time. “Every petition you sign and every letter you write to support prisoners being held can make a big difference.”

A publicist on Tuesday said Bae was traveling and unavailable for further comment.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446;

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