American Man Sentenced to “15 Years Hard Labor” in North Korea


44-year-old Washington State resident Kenneth Bae was arrested last November after entering North Korea on a valid tourist visa to lead a tour group of Chinese businessmen. Today North Korea’s state news agency reported that the country’s supreme court had sentenced him to 15 years hard labor to be performed in one of the country’s notoriously brutal prison camps. Though it’s unclear exactly why he was charged, Bae was convicted of “hostile acts” against the government. It is also thought that he was interested in helping orphans there and had stored pictures of them in his computer.

This is the sixth time North Korea has detained an American since 2009, when two journalists were also sentenced to more than a decade of hard labor for “hostile acts.” They were released after five months when Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to smooth things over. A similar scenario occurred in 2010 with Jimmy Carter playing mediator, fueling speculation that Bae is being used as another bargaining chip in the United State’s ongoing dispute with North Korea over its nuclear program. [CNN]