American Kenneth Bae now in North Korea labor camp

Story highlights

  • Pro-North Korean publication: Bae expects a visit from U.S. diplomat soon
  • American says he's been in labor camp for 3 weeks, reports Choson Sinbo
  • A State Department official says U.S. is "deeply concerned" by Bae's move from a hospital
  • Arrested in 2012, Bae is accused of plotting to topple North Korea government

American Kenneth Bae, who is being held in North Korea, has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp, the State Department said on Friday.

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the United States was "deeply concerned" by the development.

"We also remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae's health" and again urge Pyongyang to grant him "special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds," she said.

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason, along North Korea's northeastern coast.

A devout Christian and father of three, Bae 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.

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The North Korean government accused Bae of planning to bring down the government through religious activities.

Last month, he told reporters that he had committed a "serious crime" in the secretive nation and that he had not experienced abusive treatment by the regime.

Any statement by Bae in captivity would be sanctioned by the North Korean government.

Choson Sinbo -- a pro-North Korean publication with offices in Tokyo and Pyongyang that has claimed to have interviewed Bae in the past -- indicated in a report on its website Saturday that it had talked to him again.

According to the site, Bae said he'd been at a labor camp for about three weeks, during which time he works and also has some time to watch television and read books.

Choson Sinbo claims that Bae has been told to expect a visit from Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, as early as this coming Monday.

Psaki said late last month that the United States is "prepared to send Ambassador King" to North Korea to discuss Bae.

"There isn't a plan right now for Ambassador King to travel there," she said on January 29.