By Rick Gladstone
Kenneth Bae, the American missionary imprisoned in North Korea for almost two years, said in an interview released Thursday (July 31) by a pro-North Korea newspaper that he felt abandoned by his own government and had developed new lung and liver ailments, in what appeared to be part of a new effort by the North Korean authorities to use him as leverage with the United States.
The interview with the newspaper, the Choson Sinbo, which is based in Japan, was the first news from Mr. Bae since April. It came as a shock to his relatives in the United States, who have been repeatedly inquiring about his condition.
“After months of silence, it is devastating to hear Kenneth talk about ‘feeling abandoned by the United States government,’” Mr. Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, said in a statement after having heard about the interview in news reports. She said Mr. Bae, who turns 46 on Friday (Aug. 1), had “significant health concerns,” and that the family feared “he is enduring very difficult conditions.”
The Choson Sinbo, which has been given access to Mr. Bae in the past, published a photograph of him wearing a blue prisoner suit, and said he had been interviewed on Wednesday (July 30).