Asia

US citizen held in North Korea moved to hospital

  • Passersby watch a television report in Seoul on May 2, 2013, on Kenneth Bae (R), a Korean-American tour operator detained in North Korea. Bae is said to have eveloped a host of health ailmments since he was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May

    Passersby watch a television report in Seoul on May 2, 2013, on Kenneth Bae (R), a Korean-American tour operator detained in North Korea. Bae is said to have eveloped a host of health ailmments since he was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May  (AFP File)

  • Rason Port in North Korea, pictured on August 30, 2011. Korean-American tour operator Kenneth Bae was arrested at the port as he entered the country, with state media reporting that he was attempting to topple the regime.

    Rason Port in North Korea, pictured on August 30, 2011. Korean-American tour operator Kenneth Bae was arrested at the port as he entered the country, with state media reporting that he was attempting to topple the regime.  (AFP File)

Kenneth Bae, a US citizen jailed in North Korea, has been moved from a prison camp to a hospital in Pyongyang as his health deteriorates, US media reported.

Bae's sister Terri Chung told The New York Times and CNN on Sunday that her 45 year-old brother has lost more than 50 pounds (23 kilos) and has problems with his kidneys and liver.

"He has a host of ailments," Chung said. "Some of them have worsened considerably enough to warrant a hospital transfer."

Chung said that the US State Department informed the Bae family that the Swedish ambassador met with Kenneth in the hospital on Friday.

The United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea, and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang acts on behalf of Washington in consular matters.

Bae, a Korean-American tour operator, was arrested in November as he entered the northeastern North Korean port city of Rason.

He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for subversion and began serving his time on May 14, according to Chosun Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan.

North Korean state media said earlier that Bae had been convicted of seeking to "topple" the regime in Pyongyang.

The North's court has described Bae as a militant Christian evangelist who smuggled inflammatory material into the country and sought to establish a subversive base in Rason.

In July, Bae's family received letters from Kenneth for the first time since he was jailed. In the letters Bae wrote about the poor prison conditions, and asked that the US government work to get him released, The Times reported.

Chung told the newspaper that last week her family received another pack of letters with similar wording.

Bae was sentenced at a time of heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula, suggesting that Pyongyang hopes to use him as a bargaining chip in talks with Washington.

The United States wants Bae released on humanitarian grounds.

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