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North Korea tells former American prisoner to stop 'babbling' about his hard labor

Kenneth Bae spent almost two years in a North Korean labor camp. Now, on a book tour, he's been talking about his ordeal. And North Korea is not impressed.
June 20, 2016, 2:50pm
Imagen por Kenneth Bae/Daily VICE.

Until former detainee Kenneth Bae stops "babbling" about his time at a labor camp in North Korea, the country will refuse to compromise or negotiate with the US over the two Americans currently being held prisoner, state media reported on Monday.

"And there will certainly not be any such thing as humanitarian action," North Korea's KCNA news agency stated.

Bae, an American missionary, was arrested in November of 2012 on his 18th visit to the notoriously secretive nation after being caught with a hard drive containing mission reports and video clips about North Korea made by Western media.


The pastor was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, but was able to return to the US in 2014 after President Barack Obama had intelligence director James Clapper fly to North Korea to secure his release.

Bae says he was the only prisoner in a camp watched over by 30 guards. Now on a lengthy media tour promoting his memoir about the ordeal, Bae has described being forced to do farming work six days a week and being fed so little that he lost 60 pounds and was hospitalized repeatedly.

In an interview on Thursday with the Unification Media Group, a non-profit media organization run by defectors targeting a North Korean audience, Bae said he realized he'd become a "negotiating tool" that North Korea could use with Washington, and that admitting to and apologizing for his crimes wouldn't have helped him.

On Monday, North Korean state broadcaster KCNA responded to Bae's media appearances, according to Reuters, saying, "If Bae continues, US criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again,"

Two American citizens, 21-year-old Otto Warmbier and Kim Dong Chul, are currently in Pyongyang serving out sentences of hard labor.

Chul, also a missionary, has been convicted for crimes against the state and sentenced to 10 years' hard labor, while Warmbier has been sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for attempting to steal a propaganda banner with the name of leader Kim Jong Il on it.

A Canadian pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim, has also been in detention since last February, serving out a sentence of life with hard labor for crimes against the state. North Korean prosecutors claim the 62-year-old entered the country more than 100 times under the false pretense of humanitarian work, while actually trying to overthrow the regime through religion.

Related: American Detained in North Korea Had 30 Guards to Himself — And They All Wanted to Know About the US

Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk