Sister of imprisoned Kenneth Bae: Release of American from N. Korea 'could be sign of hope' for brother

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- The sister of American Kenneth Bae, who is imprisoned in North Korea, said Tuesday she hopes the release of another U.S. citizen by Pyongyang "could be a sign of hope for Kenneth."

Jeffrey Fowle, an American arrested in North Korea in May for leaving a bible at his hotel, was released earlier Tuesday and was on his way home.

Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was leading tours into North Korea from China, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in 2013 by a court that said he had carried out acts aimed at bringing down the regime of leader.

Terri Chung, Bae's sister, issued a family statement late Tuesday that read:

"Our family celebrates the release of American Jeffrey Fowle, knowing that the last five months must have been incredibly difficult for him and his family. We also are in pain, as my brother Kenneth Bae remains at a labor camp in North Korea (DPRK) after 2 years, with an uncertain future.

"When I heard the news that an American detainee was being released, of course I wondered and hoped that it was Kenneth on the plane home. At the same time, I am thankful that Mr. Fowle will soon be with his family. I trust that my brother’s time will come, and I pray that it is soon.

"It is devastating to have a loved one detained in a foreign country cut off from regular contactand to not know how long it will last. Isolated in a North Korean labor camp, Kenneth continues to struggle with severe back pain, heart problems, and other health problems – and these months of hard labor have exacted a heavy toll on his life – and on the life of his family.

"We are hoping to talk with the State Department today to get an update about Kenneth’s case, but it appears that the US aircraft sent to DPRK was specifically to retrieve Mr. Fowle. While we wrestle with the disappointment that Kenneth was not brought home as well, we believe, however optimistically, that this release could be a sign of hope for Kenneth.

"Kenneth has publicly admitted his guilt to the crimes according to DPRK laws. We know that theDPRK wants to be fair and has recently shown signs that it desires to engage with other nations. We hope DPRK leaders will have mercy on my brother to show goodwill to our family and to the world.

 "We ask for DPRK to immediately release Kenneth, and for the State Department to do everything in its power to help facilitate his release. Kenneth, an American citizen, is a good man – a husband, father, son, and brother – and we again ask for his freedom.

"Unless Kenneth is released quickly, the Bae family will soon recognize an unfortunate anniversary this November: two years since Kenneth’s detainment.

 "It has already been far too long."