About Kenneth


Kenneth with daughter

To those who know Kenneth Bae, he is the larger-than-life kind of guy who loved to rock the Miami Vice look, the white blazer with the sleeves pushed up and gelled hairstyle, back in the ‘80s. He is the guy who is always surrounded by friends, hosting homemade meals and regaling everyone with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis Presley tunes. He is the fun-loving uncle who showers his nieces with affection and chases them all over the Edmonds-Kingston ferry during family outings.

Kenneth with his parents and son (far left) in China

Kenneth with his parents and son in China

Kenneth is the guy who always does the right thing, no matter the cost. He is the guy who dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. He is the guy who would come home late from working two jobs and just spend hours watching his baby son sleep.

He is the guy who follows his personal convictions, even to the ends of the world.



North Korean landscape (image credit to Fruhtau)

Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people.

On November 3, 2012, North Korean authorities arrested Kenneth while he was leading a tourist group on one of his regular routine trips—a tour he had led at least over 15 times before—in Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), one of North Korea’s special economic zones for foreign investors.

Kenneth with North Korean children

Kenneth with North Korean children

Kenneth is a good man with a big heart who only wanted to help the people of North Korea, and now he has been sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp for what the DPRK identified as “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.

Nine months into his imprisonment—the longest time anyone has been detained by North Korea—Kenneth’s health is failing as his body strains to withstand the impact of the labor camp.

Kenneth has chronic health conditions, including diabetes, an enlarged heart, and back and leg pain. He is also losing his vision due to diabetes-related complications. He requires vital monitoring and medical treatment. Two hundred eighty days into his imprisonment, Kenneth’s family was informed of his transfer to a North Korean state hospital after further serious deterioration of his health.

We need people to take action and rally support for this fellow American in need. We need our government to swiftly secure amnesty for Kenneth. We need to bring Kenneth home.

Please sign the petition for special amnesty started by his son at www.change.org/FreeKenNow

Please send a letter of hope to Kenneth. Messages can be sent to letterforkennethbae@gmail.com