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Jailed in North Korea, US citizen Kenneth Bae asks for help

Sentenced to 15 years hard labor for what North Korea calls hostile acts against the state, Bae asked for Pyongyang to forgive him and called on Washington to help secure his freedom.

Kenneth bae north korea 06 05 2013Enlarge
Passersby watch a local television broadcast in Seoul on May 2, 2013 showing a picture of Kenneth Bae (R), a Korean-American tour operator detained in North Korea. North Korea said on May 2 it had sentenced Bae to 15 years' hard labor for 'hostile acts', stoking tensions with the United States. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Korean-United States citizen Kenneth Bae asked for Pyongyang to forgive his crimes and called on Washington to work for his release in an exclusive video obtained by CNN on Wednesday.

Bae, also known as Pae Jun Ho, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for "hostile acts" to bring down the government and plotting religious activities considered anti-North Korean, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"I ask the US government for help and hope it will make more efforts for my return at an early date," Bae said in the video that was made by a pro-Pyongyang group in Japan known as Choson Sinbo. "What I did was an unpardonable act, but I wish for a smooth and quick settlement so that I can be reunited with my family," Bae added.

After the video aired the US State Department expressed "grave concern" over the health of the 44-year-old diabetic who had been in prison for about two months. 

"We have seen the interview footage of Bae. It is clear that his health is deteriorating, which is of grave concern to us," a department official said. "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of US citizens abroad."

Bea is pictured in the video with the prison number 103, working in a green field, reportedly seeding corn, potato and bean plots.

"It's the first farm work in my life," Bae said. 

The US has attempted to contact Pyongyang via the Embassy of Sweden, since the US has no direct diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. But North Korea has denied access to Bae since May. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/130703/jailed-north-korea-us-citizen-kenneth-bae-asks-help