American citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller landed on American soil Saturday, Nov. 8. They had been detained in labor camps by the North Korean government for alleged anti-government activities.
It is unclear why the North Korean government picked up Bae. Soon after detaining him, the North Korean government released a statement saying Bae had committed a crime against the state, according to CNN. Bae had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
According to freekennow.com, a website established by his friends to promote his release, Bae was in North Korea out of kindness. “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,” the website says.
Matthew Miller was detained after he allegedly ripped up his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport and demanded asylum. The North Korean government said Miller was trying to go undercover and experience prison life in North Korea to report on the human rights situation of the communist country.
William Arnett III, a junior studying music from Arizona, said, “I’m happy they’ve been rescued, but I think no one should go into North Korea.”
Once home with his family in Seattle, Washington, Bae eased back into normalcy with pizza and Starbucks. Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, said “Our family loves food, so we talked a lot about food.” Chung said Bae had requested no Korean food for the reunion, after being held in North Korea for two years.
“It’s been an amazing two years, I learned a lot, I grew a lot, I lost a lot of weight. I’m recovering at this time,” said Bae to AP. AP added that his plans for the near future include rest, food and reconnecting with friends and family.
Victoria Mason, a sophomore from Utah in bio-medical science, said she though such an experience would be awful, and that she would have similar desires after coming home after a long and trying time away. “I would want to have a ‘Sunday dinner’ with my family and cousins. There is always good food and lots of laughs. Something low key, something familiar.”
President Obama has recently been in talks with Kim Jong Un. The U.S. maintains a strong military presence in the country with U.S troops stationed in South Korea. According to AP, Kim Jong Un’s approach to the U.S has shifted back and forth from defiance to occasional conciliation.