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Family of captive American Kenneth Bae pleads for his release from North Korea

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
updated 10:10 AM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenneth Bae has been imprisoned in North Korea for 15 months
  • He told reporters that he committed a crime and is being treated well
  • But North Korea is known for reviewing anything he says
  • Bae's family wants him freed; "I'm kind of worried about" his state of mind, mother says

(CNN) -- The imprisoned American man who allegedly confessed to crimes in North Korea is not the same son his mother remembers.

"He's not my usual son, kind of different," Myunghee Bae, mother of Kenneth Bae, told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday.

Kenneth Bae, who has been jailed in North Korea for 15 months, told reporters there that he committed a "serious crime" in the secretive nation and that he had not experienced abusive treatment by the regime.

But any statement made by Bae in captivity would be sanctioned by the North Korean government, whose widespread human rights abuses are known to the world. The country has a long history of exacting false confessions.

Bae sister: It was good to see his face
Kenneth Bae Speaks
Jeffrey Edward Fowle, one of three Americans detained in North Korea, was released and returned home Wednesday, October 22. Fowle was accused of leaving a Bible in a restaurant. North Korea announced Fowle's detention in June, saying he had violated the law by acting "contrary to the purpose of tourism." Fowle told CNN: "I've admitted my guilt to the government and signed a statement to that effect and requested forgiveness from the people and the government of the DPRK." Jeffrey Edward Fowle, one of three Americans detained in North Korea, was released and returned home Wednesday, October 22. Fowle was accused of leaving a Bible in a restaurant. North Korea announced Fowle's detention in June, saying he had violated the law by acting "contrary to the purpose of tourism." Fowle told CNN: "I've admitted my guilt to the government and signed a statement to that effect and requested forgiveness from the people and the government of the DPRK."
Americans detained abroad
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Photos: Americans detained abroad Photos: Americans detained abroad

There was something off, his mother said, when she saw him on television.

"He's not my usual son, kind of different. My heart aches when I saw him," she said.

In his remarks, Kenneth Bae asked the U.S. government, the media and his family to not make things worse by spreading "vile rumors" about North Korea.

He also asked his family and other supporters to make more active efforts to secure his freedom.

"We're hoping that we're getting closer to the end," Bae's sister, Terri Chung, told CNN. "I'm glad that he had a platform to speak, but it is also flooded back with a lot of mixed emotions, watching him in that prison uniform."

The family is scared for him, Chung said, and is appealing to anyone who may help Bae's cause.

"We believe that Kenneth is being treated well, as he said, and we hope that North Korean authorities will have mercy and allow Kenneth to come home," she said.

The U.S. government is doing what it can, Chung said, adding that she thinks that "things are in the works."

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason, along North Korea's northeastern coast. The devout Christian and father of three operated a China-based company specializing in tours of North Korea, according to his family and freekennow.com, a website that friends set up to promote his release.

"He looks very distressed," Bae's mother said. "He has a strong, strong mind, but, I don't know, after 15 months, he has to maintain the same stable mind all the time. I'm kind of worried about that."

READ: Kenneth Bae urges U.S. to help secure his release in North Korea

READ: Who is Kenneth Bae, and why is he in a North Korean prison camp?

CNN's Judy Kwon and Josh Levs contributed to this report.

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