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Originally published Friday, October 24, 2014 at 7:27 AM

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Editorial: Another American released from North Korea, so why not Kenneth Bae?

North Korea released one U.S. citizen this week. The reclusive regime should also return Kenneth Bae to his family. The former Washington state resident is nearing two years in captivity.


Seattle Times Editorial

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NORTH Korea’s decision this week to free American Jeffrey Fowle revives hope for the release of former Washington state resident Kenneth Bae.

Bae, 46, is one of two Americans still held captive by the communist country. First arrested on Nov. 3, 2012, he is the longest-detained U.S. prisoner since the Korean War. The former tour operator and father of three was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime. In an Aug. 14 Time magazine report, Human Rights Watch denounced the decision as an overly harsh method of punishment.

On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said diplomats “remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and again call on the (North Korean government) to immediately release them.”

U.S. officials are actively engaged behind the scenes, but that is little consolation for Bae’s family in the Edmonds area. Family members just want Bae released so he can receive medical attention for serious back and heart problems.

In court, Bae admitted to committing the crimes he was charged with. Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, is hoping that will lead to Bae’s release soon.

“We know that the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) wants to be fair and has recently shown signs that it desires to engage with other nations,” Chung said in a public statement. “We hope DPRK leaders will have mercy on my brother to show goodwill to our family and to the world.”

Since the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with the North Korean government, Swedish diplomats are negotiating on its behalf. Harf says the Swedish diplomats played a major role in Fowle’s release. This continues to be a vital connection in communicating with Pyongyang officials, whose motives remain unclear.

The reclusive regime’s willingness to allow a U.S. military plane to enter and transport the 56-year-old Fowle out of the country — reportedly in exchange for nothing — is a promising sign.

Imprisoning Kenneth Bae serves no real purpose.

The next carrier out of Pyongyang should include the remaining Americans.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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