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Seattle Author Says Release Of Americans Shows North Korea Unusually Rattled

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Kenneth Bae, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, waits to talk to reporters Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae is said to be reconnecting with family after two years in North Korean captivity. Seattle author Blaine Harden says the timing of Bae’s release is no accident.

Harden, who wrote the bestselling “Escape from Camp 14” about a young North Korean who managed to flee a forced labor camp, says the release of Bae and fellow American Matthew Todd Miller has to do with a recent dose of international pressure.

“North Korea is in the dock for its human rights violations,” he said. “This has got the attention of the government there.”

Harden notes that the United Nations has been threatening to bring North Korea before the International Criminal Court, and even threatened to hold leader Kim Jong-Un personally responsible for violations.

Harden said this has the secretive Communist state unusually rattled.

“They have invited human rights investigators to come to Pyongyang, which is unprecedented. They have addressed other diplomats about the issue, which is also unprecedented,” Harden said. “For many decades they have simply stormed out of the room when the subject of human rights is brought up. Now they’re talking about it.”

'Worked To Death In Secret'

North Korea is one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights, according to international investigators.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” concluded the United Nations Commission that recommended referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court.

Harden has written about conditions in the camps, including torture, starvation, rape and summary execution.

“They are worked to death in secret. And people usually die in their 40s from malnutrition-related diseases and overwork and lack of sleep,” he said.

Harden said western prisoners like Bae were not held in these sorts of political prisons. Bae’s conditions, while harsh, were “much, much better” than those of North Korean nationals held in political labor camps.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.