North Korean authorities arrested Pae Jun-Ho (shown), a US citizen known in the United States as Kenneth Bae, in November 2012 after entering the country as a ‘tourist.’
North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of compulsory prison labor for hostile acts against the Pyongyang government.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday that Pae Jun-Ho, known in the United States as Kenneth Bae, was arrested in November 2012 after entering North Korea’s port city of Rason as a ‘tourist.’
The KCNA said the trial of Bae trial took place on April 30.
The American was convicted for “carrying out serious crimes” against North Korea. “The Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years of compulsory labor for this crime,” the KCNA stated.
On April 29, Patrick Ventrell, deputy acting spokesman for the US State Department, said, “The welfare of US citizens is a critical and top priority for this department. We call on the DPRK to release Kenneth Bae immediately on humanitarian grounds.”
North Korea has detained several US citizens in recent years.
Two US journalists were sentenced to hard labor in 2009 for trespassing and hostile acts after being arrested near North Korea’s border with China and held for four months. The two were freed later.
The latest case of US citizens held in North Korea comes at a time of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which has been locked in a cycle of escalating military rhetoric following the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in the joint military exercises with South Korea that ended on April 30.
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in the South Korean capital, Seoul, argued that Pyongyang will attempt to “take advantage of Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the US.”