Six months after detaining Korean American Kenneth Bae, North Korea has sentenced the man believed to be a Christian missionary to 15 years of hard labor.
Bae is charged with “hostile acts” against the state, the country’s media reported Thursday. If history is any guide, this move could elicit a visit by a high-profile American—and that’s the whole point of his punishment, according to Ahn Chan-il, head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies, a think tank in South Korea.
Bae, of Washington, is described by friends as a devout Christian and tour operator. He is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others were eventually deported or released without serving out their terms, some after prominent Americans, including former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, made visits to Pyongyang.
"North Korea is using Bae as bait to make such a visit happen,” Ahn said. “An American bigwig visiting Pyongyang would also burnish Kim Jong Un's leadership profile." Kim took power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011.
Bae’s trial took place in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.