Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old Korean American tourist traveling to North Korea last month, has been detained by North Korean state police. He is being charged with an unspecified crime against the state and is being scheduled for criminal proceedings including a trial, according to Reuters. If convicted, punishments for hostile acts against the state in North Korea are 5-10 years of hard labor.
Bae’s arrest was disclosed by members of his family and activists in Seoul, South Korea. The tensions between the United States and North Korea continue as North Korean continues to develop and test ballistic missiles, which could hindered state department negotiations for Bea’s ultimate release.
"In the process of investigation, evidence proving that he committed a crime against the DPRK was revealed. He admitted his crime," the state news agency KCNA reported. The North Korean report said, without elaborating, that an investigation had established Mr. Bae’s guilt and that he had confessed in a report by The New York Times.
According to the North Korean run news agency KCNA, Swedish Embassy officials visited Bae today but have not reported the details of the visit, the condition of Bae or information regarding the charges against him. Sweden handles diplomatic affairs in North Korea for the United States because the US does not have diplomatic relations with them.
The U.S. State Department confirmed an American citizen has been detained but so far have not revealed further information.
An unverified report suggests Bae had been arrested for carrying a computer hard disk containing footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents. The report is from a South Korean news agency owned by an evangelical church.
Mr. Bae ran a travel company specializing in tourism to North Korea and was detained after escorting five European tourists into the North. Do Hee-youn of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of North Korean Refugees, based in Seoul told the New York Times the Europeans were allowed to leave, but Bae was detained.
North Korea has been under international scrutiny for human rights violations for years, and its totalitarian government is maintained by the Kim family rejects the claims. Its authoritarian rule and isolation give it the lowest rating on the Democracy Index of any nation on earth. Furthermore, it is one of the most militarized countries with total 9,495,000 active reserve, paramilitary personnel, and 1.21 million active duty army personnel which is the 4th largest in the world.