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Sister: Kenneth Bae's move to North Korea labor camp is 'devastating'

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 12:21 PM EST, Sun February 9, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sports agent makes plea to North Korea, offering himself in place of Bae
  • NEW: Rep. Rangel says public effort should focus on how Bae is father, son, brother
  • Kenneth Bae was recently moved from a North Korean hospital to a labor camp
  • His sister, Terri Chung, says she's "deeply concerned" about the move

(CNN) -- Kenneth Bae's sister told CNN on Saturday that her family is "deeply concerned" after learning that the imprisoned American citizen has been moved from a North Korean hospital to a labor camp.

"It's just devastating," Terri Chung said. "... We're really discouraged and concerned."

Chung spoke to CNN's Don Lemon with sports agent David Sugarman, who is pushing a new social media campaign -- using #BringBaeBack -- to raise attention about Bae, 45, and increase pressure on officials in Pyongyang to release him.

"We need to get the world and the American people behind us," said Sugarman, who represents retired NBA player Kenny Anderson. Anderson joined another retired player, Dennis Rodman, in his recent controversial visit to North Korea.

Sugarman also made a personal appeal to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Jeffrey Edward Fowle, one of three Americans detained in North Korea, was released and is now on his way home, a State Department official told CNN on Tuesday, October 21. 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 is now on his way home, a State Department official told CNN on Tuesday, October 21. 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."
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Photos: Americans detained abroad Photos: Americans detained abroad
N. Korea moves American to labor camp

"Human to human, I'm asking you to release Kenneth Bae. I'm going to take it a step further: If the North Korea government actually needs somebody in North Korea, take David Sugarman," Sugarman said. "Allow me to go there. I'm younger. I'm healthier.

"You have released prisoners before, and I'm asking you to release Kenneth Bae," Sugarman continued.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, said the public pressure could work on North Korea.

"People like David should be all over the country," Rangel said. "Churches and synagogues should be pleading to this government that this has nothing to do with communism and the United States of America. It's a brother and a father and a son, and they should be responding to this effort."

Chung described her family's quest to free Bae as "all consuming."

"This is our whole life," Chung said. "We will not rest easy until his feet touch U.S. soil."

Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, was arrested in November 2012 in Rason, along North Korea's northeastern coast. The North Koreans say he was picked up for a crime against the state.

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.

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.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki that Washington is "deeply concerned" about Bae's recent move to a North Korean labor camp.

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.

CNN's K.J. Kwon and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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