Tag Archives: Kenneth Bae

Matthew Miller's trial in North Korea

Mattew Miller Sentenced to 6 Years of Hard Labor in North Korea

by REERA YOO

Matthew Todd Miller, one of the three American detainees currently held in North Korea, was sentenced to six years of hard labor for committing “hostile acts” against the isolated state, as reported by The New York Times.

Miller, 24, was arrested in April for allegedly tearing up his tourist visa and demanding asylum upon arrival, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the time. KCNA recently released photos of Miller in the defendant’s seat with eyes downcast and looking pale in his black turtleneck despite it being summer.

According to The Associated Press, which was allowed to attend the trial, Miller was accused of having a “wild ambition” of experiencing North Korean prison life and deliberately violated North Korean law in order to write a firsthand account about human rights conditions in the North.

The prosecution also accused him of falsely claiming to have confidential information about the U.S. military in South Korea on his iPad and iPod, AP reported.

Earlier this month, all three detainees were allowed a brief interview with CNN. Each of them urged Washington to send an envoy to secure their release.

One of the other two American detainees, Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary, is currently serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor for allegedly being a part of a Christian plot to overthrow the North Korean regime. He stated in his interview with CNN that he has been spending his time moving between the labor camp and a hospital due to his failing health.

Meanwhile, the other detainee, Jeffrey Fowles, is awaiting trial on charges of leaving a Bible behind during his tourist trip.

The State Department has repeatedly offered to send Robert R. King, its special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to Pyongyang, but North Korea refused, apparently seeking a government official with higher profile.

The NY Times reported that the Supreme Court in North Korea said Miller waived his right to legal counsel and that he would not be permitted any appeals.

Photo courtesy of Reuters/KCNA

Matthew Miller

NKorea to Hold Trial for American Detainee Matthew Miller on Sept. 14

by REERA YOO

North Korea has announced that it will hold a trial on Sept. 14 for Matthew Miller, one of three American detainees currently held by the communist state, according to Yonhap.

“The Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) decided to hold on September 14 a court trial on American Matthew Todd Miller, now in custody according to the indictment of a relevant institution,” the state-run news agency KCNA said in a brief dispatch. 

Matthew Miller, 24, was arrested in April for allegedly tearing up his tourist visa and seeking asylum upon arrival, according to the North Korean state media reports at the time.  No further details of charges against Miller were given.

Last week, CNN was granted a rare opportunity to interview all three detainees, including Kenneth Bae, 56, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 46.  Each detainee urged Washington to send an envoy to the North to help bring them home.

“I deliberately committed my crime,” Miller told CNN’s Will Ripley at a hotel in Pyongyang.  “I have already admitted my guilt and apologized to the government of the DPRK and I have been asking for forgiveness.”

Miller also expressed frustration that “there’s been no movement” from the American government to secure his release and that his repeated pleas for help have gone unanswered.

“My situation is very urgent, that very soon I’m going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison,” he said, adding that he will not learn of his charges until he goes on trial.  “I think this interview is my final chance to push the American government into helping me.”

Bae, a Korean American Christian missionary, was detained in November 2012 and is currently serving a 15-year sentence at a labor camp for allegedly being a part of a Christian plot to overthrow the North Korean regime.  In his CNN interview, Bae said his health has “been failing” for the past few months, but claims that he has been treated as “humanely as possible.”

Fowle, an American tourist, was accused of leaving a Bible behind during a tourist trip.  Proselytizing is considered a serious crime in North Korea, and Fowle was arrested on May 7 at the airport as he was about to board a flight out of the country.  He said in his interview that he expects his trial to start within a month.

After the CNN interviews were released, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki requested the North Korean government to release the three detainees “out of humanitarian concern.”  Meanwhile, Sweden continues to negotiate with North Korea on behalf of the U.S., which has no diplomatic ties with the isolated country and no embassy in Pyongyang.

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Link Attack: Lydia Ko’s Childlike Joy, Kim Il-sung disappears from NK money, Red Velvet’s controversial video

What we’re reading right now. 

Who is Lydia Ko? Well, on paper, she’s a 17-year-old golf prodigy and the No. 2-ranked player in the world, but what’s she really like? In a recent article, ESPN posits that the young golfer is flying “under the radar,” in part because her agency, IMG, is limiting media obligations and other “distractions” as much as possible. The sports news site turns to Korean American golfer Danielle Kang, Ko’s closest friend on the Tour, for some insights into the golf phenom: “Lydia has that joy of the game that little kids have and that some professionals lose when they turn pro,” says Kang.

Not long after a South Korean soldier allegedly traumatized by bullying in the military shot his own comrades, another disturbing abuse case has come to light.

Korean American activists convene in Washington, D.C., to urge members of Congress to support a bill to increase the number of professional work visas allowed for South Korea.

Do you know your history? The history of fried chicken in Korea, that is! If not, read this.

Controversy in K-pop land: Kotaku reports that “Happiness,” a new single by K-pop band Red Velvet, has upset many viewers who noticed some anti-Japanese slurs in the background—not in the lyrics, but in one scene where old newspaper clippings are laid out. The newspapers carry such headlines as “Japs Hit By Atomic Bomb Equal To 20,000 Tons,” “Bomb Blasts Hiroshima” and “Allies Tell Japs Hirohito Must Obey Our Command.”

Why has Kim Il-sung’s visage disappeared from North Korean money?

It’s hard to believe, but three Americans are currently in North Korean custody. Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary, is serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being convicted of allegedly planning to “bring down the government” through religious activities. He said in a recent interview that he feels “abandoned” by the U.S. meanwhile, the other two men, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, are expected to be tried in the North soon and, in an interview with the Associated Press, asked for the U.S. to secure their release. “The horizon for me is pretty dark,” Fowle told the AP.

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North Korea Says It Allows Religious Freedom, Lambasts U.S. for ‘Hypocrisy’

by TONY KIM

North Korea staunchly denied the veracity of a U.S. State Department report that criticized the isolated country for its “absolute prohibition of religious organizations” and “harsh punishments for any unauthorized religious activities.”

Though the U.S. report assessing international religious freedom is more than a year old, the North’s state-run news agency just this week launched into a tirade against the U.S. for its “hypocrisy” and insisted that North Korean citizens enjoy constitutional rights to practice religion freely.

The U.S. Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, released in April of 2013, didn’t mince words about what it characterized as North Korea’s oppressive restrictions on religious activities, alleging that citizens affiliated with missionaries are severely punished and even executed.

But in response, North Korea’s government on Tuesday went as far as uploading a video to its state-controlled YouTube channel Uriminzokkiri that profiled the newly renovated Chilgol Church, which Pyongyang claims allows Christians to freely worship. A minister surnamed Baek says in the video, “Many Christians come from South Korea and overseas to come to Chilgol Church. We have become a church that does good deeds for the reconciliation and unification between both Koreas.”

North Korea goes on to state how America has acted as a deterrent to religious freedom because its military bombed over 1,900 churches during the Korean War. It also accused the U.S. of fabricating such allegations in an attempt to damage North Korea’s reputation.

“Innumerable are the crimes committed by the U.S. in violation of religions in different parts of the world,” KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, reported. “Former U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other reactionary ruling quarters of the U.S. worked with blood-shot eyes to crack down on Islam and bring down the social systems in Islamic countries under the pretext of ‘war on terror,’ not content with describing Islam as fascism.”

In the same broadcast, the North pledged to severely punish those committing “crimes against the law of the DPRK under the mask of religion.”

This statement seemed to apply to recent cases involving foreign missionaries like Kenneth Bae and John Short, who have been detained in the North for attempting to proselytize within the country. Short, an Australian, was released in March, but Bae, a Korean American Christian missionary from Washington state, is serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being convicted of allegedly planning to “bring down the government” through religious activities. He has been detained there for two years.

While North Korea’s constitution apparently guarantees religious freedom, Ji Min Kang, a North Korean escapee and contributor to the U.S.-based website NK News, said it’s quite another story in reality. “The basic principles of North Korean socialism are strongly opposed to and incompatible with religious beliefs,” he wrote in an article for NK News.

Kang goes on to state that while the presence of internationally prevalent religions like Islam and Christianity is very limited, folk religion and fortune telling are ingrained into their culture. Despite limited effort through propaganda to discourage fortune-telling activities, they are still very popular and even rumored to have drawn North Korean leaders also to participate.

Kang concludes, however, that although shamanism and folk religion may be prevalent in North Korea’s society, the one religion that citizens are obligated to follow is the ideology of the nation’s founder, Kim Il-Sung.

Photo of Chilgol Church in North Korea, via NK News.

 

 

 

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Another American Tourist Detained In North Korea

by STEVE HAN

(Photo via Reuters)

North Korea’a state-run media announced Friday that it has detained an American tourist and is investigating him for unspecified acts, the New York Times reported.

The Times identified the detainee as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who reportedly entered the country on April 29 and, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, “perpetrated activities that violated the laws of our republic, which did not fit his stated purpose of visiting our republic as a tourist.” Fowle is the third U.S. citizen being held in the isolated country.

Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said Fowle was part of a tour group and was arrested in mid-May as he was about to leave the country.

U.S. officials are said to be communicating with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang. The European nation acts as a liaison in these cases because Washington has no official diplomatic ties with the totalitarian regime.

Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae remains in North Korea after 19 months. Pyongyang accused him of attempting to overthrow the government with his religious activities in the country and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor, despite his serious health issues. “Kenneth Bae must not be forgotten,” the Seattle Times recently wrote in an editorial. Bae is a former Washington resident.

Robert King, Washington’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had two planned trips to meet with North Korean officials over Bae’s case, but Pyongyang canceled both times.

Also still in North Korean custody is Matthew Todd Miller, who was detained in April for what the government deemed improper behavior. While entering North Korea on a tourist visa, Miller reportedly ripped his passport into pieces at the airport and sought political asylum there.

Last year, another American tourist, Merrill E. Newman, a Korean War veteran, was held for a month by the North because of his “war crimes.” The 85-year-old was released, however, because of his age, North Korean officials said.

The U.S. State Department has warned its citizens not to travel to North Korea due to “the risk of arbitrary detention or arrest.” The advisory also says not to “assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrests or detention by North Korean authorities.”

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Jesse Jackson: “We Need To Remember Kenneth Bae”

by STEVE HAN

Amid the rising tension between the two Koreas, Rev. Jesse Jackson is reminding those caught up in the political tug-of-war to not forget Kenneth Bae, who has been detained in North Korea for 18 months and has serious health issues.

In his column for the Huffington Post, Jackson wrote, “Rather than mediation, there is mutual agitation and antagonism … The Korean peninsula remains the only part of the world still divided as a result of post WWII agreements.”

Jackson, who created the “Rainbow Coalition” of minority groups which includes Asian Americans, is best known for being the progressive voice for racial minorities. He stressed that Americans should continue to fight for the release of Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in North Korea almost two years ago for allegedly trying to overthrow its totalitarian government after entering the country as a tourist.

The 72-year-old continued in his column: “In the meantime, an ill man languishes in a North Korean prison … Kenneth Bae has been in prison for 18 months with poor health and in need of medical attention.”

Last year, Bae was placed in a hospital due to deteriorating health, but North Korean authorities put him back in a hard labor prison camp this past January. North Korea has continuously rejected demands from the U.S. government and Bae’s family to free him, even though officials recently released a 75-year-old Australian missionary, John Short, who was arrested in March.

“It is difficult to travel into North Korea and many people are unable to visit whenever they wish,” Jackson wrote. “In addition to limited access, North Korea does not welcome journalists as freely as other countries and as a result it has become a challenge for the rest of the world to follow the shifting rules and regulations within the region.”

Bae’s son, Jonathan Bae, has started a petition to free his father from North Korea. There is also a Facebook page asking for his release.

“When the lights go off, people suffer in silence. This is a when evil grows … We need to remember that Kenneth Bae’s life is precious and important. His health is precarious and we must seek his release on humanitarian grounds. When one Asian American family hurts, we all hurt.”

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Dennis Rodman Says NKorean Leader’s Uncle Is Still Alive

Photo by Alexander F. Yuan/AP

Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man and uncle, who was reportedly executed, is still alive.

In an interview with fashion and culture magazine DuJour, Rodman said that Kim didn’t execute his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and that he even met him during his latest trip to the communist country in January. North Korea’s state-run media confirmed last December that Jang was executed for his “anti-state acts.”

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“You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it,” Rodman said. “The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs … They were standing right behind me.”

 

When asked to clarify, Rodman repeated, “He was standing right there.”

The 52-year-old developed a friendship with Kim when he first visited Pyongyang last year. He has made several trips to the secretive state since and even took a group of retired NBA players there. They hosted an exhibition game earlier this year for Kim’s birthday. Rodman even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim.

Kim reportedly became an avid fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls as he grew up watching Rodman win three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s when he was studying abroad in Switzerland.

Rodman added that the North Korean leader, whom he calls his “lifelong friend,” is eager to speak to U.S. President Barack Obama and that he “loves Americans.”

“He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He can’t say it enough,” Rodman said. “He’s saying that he doesn’t want to bomb anybody. He said, ‘I don’t want to kill Americans.’ He loves Americans.”

This isn’t the first time Rodman stirred controversy with an unexpected comment about North Korea. In January, he told CNN that North Korea shouldn’t be blamed for detaining Kenneth Bae, a Korean American man who has been imprisoned in the country for over a year.

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Monday’s Link Attack: NKorea Purges On; Skiier Toby Dawson Inducted into Hall of Fame; Cigs and SKorea

Park annoyed with military over North’s drones
Joongang Daily

President Park Geun-hye yesterday reprimanded the military’s top brass for failing to realize that North Korea was spying on South Korea using unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

“I think the fact that our military authority was not able to detect information about drones at all means there is a problem with the air-defense network and ground reconnaissance,” she said in a meeting with her senior secretaries at the Blue House.

Park stressed that Seoul should come up with measures that could instantly block or destroy any kind of intrusions from Pyongyang.

Her comments come after three digital-camera-equipped UAVs, or drones, were discovered in different regions: Paju in Gyeonggi, Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea and Samcheok in Gangwon.

Korean American makes skiers’ hall of fame
Korea Times

Toby Dawson, a Korean-American athlete who won a bronze medal in men’s mogul skiing at the 2006 Winter Olympics, has become the first man of Korean parentage to be inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

The retired mogul skier, along with Montana native Scot Schmidt, Kris “Fuzz” Fedderson and Aspen native John Clendenin, was inducted into the hall of fame on Saturday at a ceremony in Park City, Utah.

Dawson was orphaned in 1981, about three years after his birth in Busan, Korea. He was adopted by an American family in Colorado, where he first started skiing.

N. Korea Shuts Down Jang Song-taek’s Department
Chosun Ilbo

The North Korean regime has shut down the Workers Party department once headed by purged eminence grise Jang Song-taek and executed or interned 11 high-ranking officials, sources said Sunday.

One of them was burned alive.

A source said the regime is preparing a third purge of officials who supported Jang. The first purge involved his family, relatives and high-ranking party officials, while the second purge underway. The third will target his supporters in provincial chapters of the Workers Party.

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S. Korea returns N. Korean sailors, bodies after boat sinking
Business Standard

South Korea sent home today three North Korean sailors who had survived a fatal sinking of a cargo ship in waters off the South, an official said.

The 4,300-tonne Mongolian-flagged ship carrying 16 North Korean crew sank in the international waters off the South’s southern island of Geomun on Friday.

Two bodies were retrieved from the sea and returned to the North along with the three sailors across the border truce village of Panmunjom, Seoul’s unification ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

U.S. envoy urges N. Korea to release Korean American missionary
Yonhap News

A U.S. special envoy urged North Korea on Monday to release Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been detained in the North since November 2012, so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical care.

“He has health problems. We’ve expressed the desire that he be returned to his family on humanitarian grounds. So far, we’ve got no positive response,” Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, told reporters after talks with South Korean Foreign Ministry officials.

Bae, 44, was arrested on Nov. 3, 2012 while leading a tourist group on a tour of Rason, a special economic zone on the northeastern tip of North Korea that borders China and Russia.

South Korea Teenagers: Better Off Than Most?
Wall Street Journal

South Korean teenagers are notoriously pressurized lot, with a recent survey showing just over half having had suicidal thoughts over school concerns and future uncertainty.

But another new poll measuring well-being shows that they’re among the world’s best off by a broad compilation of metrics.

South Korea ranked third among 30 countries in the survey by the International Youth Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Hilton Worldwide that measured the quality of well-being of people aged 12-24.

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Will Korea become the new tobacco manufacturing hub?
Korea Herald

Stringent regulations and a growing negative sentiment toward cigarettes have caused tobacco companies in the world’s most advanced countries to keep their heads down.

In Korea, however, where regulations are relatively lax and a large part of the population is still very open to the idea of smoking, the situation is a bit different.

Perhaps encouraged by this difference, Philip Morris International, the maker of Marlboro and other popular cigarette brands, has recently decided to relocate its entire Australian cigarette production facility to Korea.

“We decided to cease cigarette manufacturing in Australia by end of 2014, and transition all Australian cigarette production to our affiliate in Korea,” the company said in a statement on last Wednesday.

Ten Korean writers on a country sawn in half
The Guardian

After two years of political hot potatoes – first China and then Turkey – this year’s “market focus” country presents a different challenge to the London Book Fair, which runs this week: who wants to read books from Korea? The choice of name could be dismissed as opportunistically misleading: Korea is two countries, but the 10 writers who will be at the book fair are all from the south.

We’re desperate to hear the inside story of North Korea because it is the stuff of nightmares, locked in unending cold war, complete with nuclear bombs aimed at unknown targets. We have no access to the first-hand stories of its citizens, so we rely on western writers, whether of novels, such as Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer prizewinning The Orphan Master’s Son, or of journalism. Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea won the 2010 Samuel Johnson prize, while John Sweeney was more recently accused of putting a group of London students at risk by joining them incognito to research his book, North Korea Undercover.

Rhythmic gymnast Son wins 4 World Cup titles
Korea Herald

South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae earned four titles, including the individual all-around gold medal, at a World Cup stop in Portugal over the weekend.

Son finished first in ball, clubs and ribbon events on Sunday at the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Lisbon, a day after claiming the all-around title.

Son became the first South Korean rhythmic gymnast to win an individual all-around gold at a senior international event.

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Dresden to build ‘Korea Street’
Han Cinema

Dresden will have a “Korea Street” to commemorate President Park’s state visit to Germany. (photo: Yonhap News)

Thanks to President Park Geun-hye’s visit to Dresden, the capital of Saxony will now establish a street named after Korea. The Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault, a well-known historic museum in the city with one of the largest collections of treasures in Europe, has also begun offering an audio guide to its collection in Korean.

Cheong Wa Dae said at a briefing on March 30 that Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz told President Park that he will re-name a street in Dresden as “Korea Street”. The Dresden mayor made the announcement during a luncheon hosted by the prime minister of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich. The decision marks the friendship and cooperation between Korea and Germany and commemorates President Park’s visit to the city.