According to CNN (December 21, 2012):
North Korea has arrested a U.S. citizen for committing an unspecified crime against the country, state media reported Friday, 10 days after U.S. officials said an American had been detained by the reclusive nation.
Bae Jun Ho entered North Korea on November 3 to carry out a tour, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA reported.
He was detained and evidence was uncovered proving that he had committed a crime against the country, the news agency said. The American then confessed to the offense, it said, and faces legal action.
What was his crime? It appears that he was leading a group of five tourists and that one of them had sensitive information on a computer hard drive. I guess there is no information on what happened to the five tourists but according to Seattle Times (December 14, 2012):
Washington State Rep. Cindy Ryu, who was born in South Korea, said Friday that she is trying to contact Bae’s family and find out more about the situation. “It’s not unusual for the North Koreans to hold one or more people back, out of a group,” she said. “Just to show they have total control.”
Kenneth (Jun-ho) Bae is from from Lynnwood, Washington and, according to Fox News was involved with a Protestant religious movement. He doesn’t seem to be too well known in the Korean community of Washington State and there was some speculation as to why he was in North Korea. According to rescuechristians.org:
Another local Washington publication, Heraldnet.com, spoke with State Rep. Cindy Ryu, a Democrat in the 32nd Legislative District and noted that Bae’s name was not familiar to many Koreans in Snohomish County, where Bae lives.
Ryu told the publication that Bae could be presenting himself as a tour director when in actuality he may be a Christian missionary.
“Many of us are third- and fourth-generation Christians and many of our pastors are originally from North Korea,” Ryu said. “We want to visit our home country, but in North Korea you cannot say you are a missionary.”
An exclusive by NKNews.org, which focuses on news specific to North Korea, reported that Bae is owner of Nations Tour, a company that focuses on tours to the northeast region of North Korea. The Christian Post confirmed that
NationsTour.com is registered to Kenneth Bae, but a visit to the website reveals a message that it is “down for maintenance”.
We found ourselves falling in love with the friendly people…and fascinating culture… After realizing this love was something that needed to be shared with as many people possible, we developed Nation Tours so that others could fall in love with North Korea, too.
Show me the love.
Here is what most of the media is reporting. He apparently entered North Korea through Rajin on November 3 guiding five tourists and that one of the tourists had a computer hard drive with sensitive information.
The AP (via AU – December 21, 2012) adds this:
The announcement of the American’s detainment could be a signal from the North that it wants dialogue with the United States, said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.
He said trips by former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to North Korea to secure the release of other detained Americans created a mood for US-North Korea talks.
“North Korea knows sanctions will follow its rocket launch. But in the long run, it needs an excuse to reopen talks after the political atmosphere moves past sanctions,” Mr Cheong said.
Mr Cheong said he expects that the American will be tried and convicted in coming months. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has the power to grant amnesty and will exercise it as a bargaining chip, Mr Cheong said.
KNDU in Washington State says that Bae’s mother, who lives in Lynnwood, isn’t talking to the press because she is afraid that it could effect her son’s release.