LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- A Lynnwood woman just returned from North Korea where she visited her son who has been sentenced to a 15-year prison term.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea allowed Myunghee Bae to see her son Kenneth while he was hospitalized.
"He embraced me when he saw me," Myunghee Bae said. "I think we held each other, we cried too. He cried too."
It was an emotional moment, Bae seeing her son for the first time, face to face, since the government imprisoned him a year ago.
"He is a prisoner over there," she said. "It's hard to see him confined to a small space and I think he had been suffering so much during one year. That's a long one year."
Forty-five-year-old Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, a tour company owner, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what North Korea called "hostile actions."
In July, the government released video of him, suffering from serious health problems and 50 pounds lighter. So when she was given special permission to visit, his petite soft-spoken mother didn't hesitate.
"I am almost 70 years old. So no fear," she said with a smile.
The living room inside her Lynnwood home is covered with photos of her only son. She and her daughter, Terri Chung, work and pray endlessly for his freedom and his survival. Bae said he looked better and had gained some weight back. He told her had read the bible over and over, several times.
"The first thing he told me is 'Mom, don't worry. I'm okay,'" she said.
But that could soon mean returning to the hard labor and imprisonment, which made him sick in the first place.
The family says they are in regular contact with the U.S. State Department.
"They're really trying hard every day, but sometimes it's hard to understand for me, why this case? My son's case takes so long to bring him home," she said.
As recent as this week, congressional members held a briefing on the Amanda Knox case. But so far, government leaders have said very little publicly regarding Bae. A U.S. envoy's trip to North Korea in August was canceled at the last minute when North Korea rescinded its invitation.
Friday, Representative Rick Larsen and Senator Patty Murray's offices say they remain in contact with Secretary Kerry and the State Department, and are seeking special amnesty for Bae.
His mother left North Korea without getting to meet with any government representative, unable to make a case for freeing her son.
"My heart ached with pain. I felt so helpless. I could not bring him with me. I could not do anything for him. Tried not to cry, but I could not help myself," Bae said. "I think my son fighting back tears too."