Thursday, May 16, 2013

North Korea: Detained US Citizen Begins Life at 'Special Prison'

North Korea says an American citizen sentenced to 15 years of hard labor has begun serving his sentence.

The Korean Central News Agency said Kenneth Bae "started his life at a 'special prison' Tuesday." It did not elaborate.

The 44-year-old Korean-American tour operator was found guilty last month of plotting to overthrow the Pyongyang government.

He was arrested in November in the northeastern port city of Rason while in possession of what authorities said was anti-Pyongyang literature.

Last week, the North's supreme court described Bae as a Christian evangelist who was trying to set up "plot-breeding bases" in China aimed at toppling the North's government.

North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009. While some were given similarly harsh sentences, all were eventually released. In most cases, their release followed visits by high-ranking former U.S. officials.

Washington has demanded the immediately release of Bae, but has suggested that it will not be organizing an official delegation to negotiate his release.

Pyongyang has rejected accusations that it detained Bae so his freedom could be used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations with the United States.

North Korea says Bae has confessed to all the charges against him. He was convicted and sentenced in a closed-door trial that his attorney was not allowed to attend.