(WASHINGTON) — An American of Korean descent was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea Thursday.
Kenneth Bae is a tour operator from Washington state and a devout Christian whose friends say often went to North Korea to help orphans.
Bae, who Pyongyang identified as Pae Jun Ho, was arrested last November after entering the special economic zone of Rason City that also borders China and Russia.
North Korea was unspecific about what crime Bae might have committed only to say that he was found guilty of “hostile acts” against its government.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has been using the Swedish Embassy as an intermediary to try to win Bae’s release. There is also speculation that former President Jimmy Carter might travel to Pyongyang to try to convince the North Koreans to free the U.S. citizen.
Carter was successful in winning the release of American Aijalon Mahli Gomes in 2010 while former President Bill Clinton’s visit was instrumental in gaining freedom for journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee a year earlier.
However, it’s possible that North Korea might try to play hardball, given that relations between Washington and Pyongyang are more strained than ever before due to North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Tiffany Ap and Brian Todd, CNN Newswire
Michael Pearson, Faith Karimi and Ian Lee, CNN