A Korean American who is serving a prison term in North Korea for committing "hostile acts" against the country has been hospitalized due to deteriorating health, The Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of a pro-Pyongyang association in Japan, said in its online edition Monday.
Pae Jun Ho, known as Kenneth Bae in the United Sates, called for a visit by a high-ranking U.S. official to North Korea to realize his release from prison, telling the newspaper that he "wants the U.S. government make active efforts at enabling me to return home."
The report, apparently an attempt to pressure the United States to hold dialogue with North Korea, said Bae was moved to a hospital on Aug. 5.
"It's clear that his health is deteriorating. We have been concerned about his health for a long time," Marie Harf, spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department, told reporters Monday in Washington.
Staff at the Swedish Embassy, which provides consular services for the United States in North Korea, visited a hospital in Pyongyang last Friday, Harf said. Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations.
Harf said the U.S. government continues to urge North Korea to grant Bae "amnesty and immediate release."
Bae is said to have injured his back and to be suffering from numb hands because of farm work he undertook as part of his hard labor sentence. A doctor reportedly said he was showing symptoms of gallstone disease. His weight is down to 71 kilograms from 94 kg before his visit to North Korea.
Bae was arrested in the northeastern city of Rason in November and was given 15 years of hard labor by North Korea's Supreme Court in April. He was moved to a special correctional facility in May.