Earlier this month, US citizen Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of “hard labour” by the North Korean regime. Exactly what Bae did to deserve this is unclear. When his trial was announced, North Korea said he had “admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with hostility toward it.”
Finally, more details are coming out.
North Korean news agency KNCA said today that Bae had smuggled in “inflammatory literature” into he country and tried to create a base for “anti-Pyongyang activities” in a border city hotel.
James Pearson of NKNews.org reports that the KNCA alleges Bae had a 2007 National Geographic documentary called “Don’t tell my mother that I am in North Korea” in his possession. The documentary is one of a few “propaganda materials” Bae was carrying, KNCA alleges.
The National Geographic documentary, filmed by French-Canadian reporter Diego Bunuel, is currently available to watch in full on YouTube:
To those who have viewed Western documentaries about North Korea before it probably seems like pretty-standard stuff.
So far the best interpretation of this news comes from Max Fisher at the Washington Post, who points out that the film features a visit to one of three Catholic churches in Pyongyang around the 18-minute mark. Bae is known to be a Christian, and North Korea has accused him of being a missionary with the evangelical Youth With a Mission (YWAM) group.
Right now things remain bleak for Bae, but there is some hope.
Despite North Korea’s accusations, most analysts agree that Bae’s imprisonment follows the patterns of previous arrests of US citizens within North Korea, and seems to be aimed at using Bae as a bargaining chip for a visit from a high-ranking US official.
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