By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
PYONGYANG/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)– North Korea has released American missionary Kenneth Bae, who his family said was imprisoned for his Christian faith, along with fellow U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller, BosNewsLife learned.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirmed that Bae and Miller are on their way back to the United States.
Kenneth Bae, 45, was held since late 2012 in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying “to overthrow” the state.
However family members linked the detention of the Korean-American to his Christian work in a nation where devoted Christians are forced to meet underground. Many thousands of Christians are believed to be among those held in prison camps, according to several advocacy groups and other sources.
Since his detention, Bae reportedly lost many kilo’s and at one point was transferred to hospital.
TOURIST VISA DESTROYED
Fellow prisoner Todd, 24, was detained in April after he tore his tourist visa to pieces and shouted that he had come “to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter,” North Korea said at the time.
It was not immediately clear what prompted North Korea to release the two Americans, but it came amid mounting international pressure.
“The United States has long called on DPRK authorities to release these individuals on humanitarian grounds,” U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in published remarks. “We join their families and friends in welcoming them home.”
Bae’s family and supporters also launched a social media campaign calling for his release.
US WELCOMING RELEASE
“We welcome North Korea’s decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller,” the DNI’s office added in a separate statement. “We want to thank our international partners, especially … the government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure their release.”
November 3, 2014 marked two years that Bae had been imprisoned in North Korea. Matthew Todd Miller had been held for seven months.
“At more than 730 days, Bae’s imprisonment was the longest on record for an American citizen in North Korea,” noted Washington-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) in a reaction to BosNewsLife.
ICC said the country is “widely recognized to be among the world’s most repressive places for Christians.”