Wearing civilian clothes and appearing well groomed, North Korean prisoner Kenneth Bae spoke to CNN and urged his family to continue to work for his release from a North Korean labor camp.
The American missionary and tour operator appeared in a tightly controlled interview from a hotel in Pyongyang. He has been imprisoned in the communist country for 18 months.
Analysts say the interviews with Bae and two other Americans awaiting trial may signal North Korea’s willingness to reopen talks.
The interviews were limited to five minutes each and could address only limited topics. Each man appeared to speak freely, but cautiously.
“I’ve been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half,” Bae said. “My hands are numb and tingling, and it’s difficult sleeping at night, and I was working in the field every day.”
Bae said he has had little communication with anyone except small talk with the guards. He says he is the only inmate in the labor camp.
“We have always been concerned about his health, as it was clear that his severe back problems were once again hurting him as he tried to sit up for the interview,” Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, said in a statement reported by Yahoo via Reuters.
“My family sincerely appreciates the efforts put forth on behalf of my brother. The time is now — respectfully — to step up every diplomatic effort to release Kenneth, a U.S. citizen.”
The US once again urged North Korea to release the men.
“Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the DPRK release them so they may return home,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, using the formal acronym for North Korea, and referring to the two men awaiting trial.
“We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care,” she added.
You can read about the difficulty in restarting talks again in Yahoo via Reuters.