This is my latest for The Huffington Post, co-written with Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The annual joint military drills between South Korea and the United States have ended but tensions continue and fire has been exchanged between South and North Korea. Rather than mediation, there is mutual agitation and antagonism.
Korea was divided along the 38th parallel after World War II — with the Soviet Union occupying the North and the United States occupying the South. The division has separated family members, loved ones and lifelong friends for a long time. The Korean peninsula remains the only part of the world still divided as a result of post WWII agreements. Several family reunions have occurred in the past, but attempts at general reconciliation to bring the two Koreas together, have been unsuccessful.
With the division, it is difficult to travel into North Korea and many people are unable to visit whenever they wish. In addition to limited access, North Korea does not welcome journalists as freely as other countries and as a result it has become a challenge for the rest of the world to follow the shifting rules and regulations within the region.
In the meantime, an ill man languishes in a North Korean prison. Kenneth Bae is a Korean American missionary who has been charged with trying to overthrow the government of North Korea. He has been found guilty and is now serving a prison sentence of 15 years.
Kenneth Bae has been in prison for 18 months with poor health and in need of medical attention. August 5, 2013 he was placed in a hospital due to his health but on January 20 of this year he returned to hard labor prison camp.
This past January, Dennis Rodman took some ex-NBA players to North Korea to play with the North Korean basketball team. During Rodman’s visit, there was great media uproar when Rodman made some statements about Kenneth Bae on a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo. The interview was difficult and painful for Bae’s family. Rodman has apologized publically for his rant on CNN news. However, since Rodman’s basketball tour, media interest in Kenneth Bae has waned; there has been a detachment from the Kenneth Bae case.
When the lights go off, people suffer in silence. This is a when evil grows.
We need to remember that Kenneth Bae’s life is precious and important. His health is precarious and we must seek his release on humanitarian grounds. We cannot challenge the sovereignty of other nations or their laws. Therefore, we must seek compassion and ask for Kenneth Bae’s release on humanitarian grounds. Bae is a good man, with a family that needs him. He has confessed his crime. His health is getting worse and he needs to be brought home.
May is AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) Heritage month. During this month, we need to remember the case of Kenneth Bae. We need to make a moral appeal for his release and put the spotlight back on his case. When one Asian American family hurts, we all hurt.
The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University. She is the author of 6 books, Theological Reflections on “Gangnam Style” co-written with Joseph Cheah, Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers (Palgrave), Contemplations from the Heart (Wipf & Stock), Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press). She is a co-editor with Dr. Joseph Cheah for the Palgrave Macmillan Book Series, “Asian Christianity in Diaspora”.