WASHINGTON -- The White House called for North Korea to release a Lynnwood man and an 85-year-old U.S. veteran Saturday.
Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years in prison after the country's Supreme Court found him guilty of "plotting to overthrow the government.” He has been held in the country for more than a year.
Bae is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in South Korea but most recently lived in Lynnwood.
"We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of the U.S. citizens held in custody in the DPRK," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
Bae's sister Terri Chung said she was "heartened" by the news.
"We haven't given up on Kenneth or the U.S. government," she said Saturday, "We place our hope and faith in them to bring Kenneth home and Mr. Newman as well.
Retired finance executive Merrill Newman, who fought in the Korean War, was taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave after a 10-day visit.
Newman's son has said his father wanted to return to the country where he spent three years during the war.
"Given Mr. Newman's advanced age and health conditions, we urge the DPRK to release Mr. Newman so he may return home and reunite with his family," Hayden said.
Kenneth Bae's family issued a statement Saturday, saying "We are thankful that the White House has advocated for the release of both Mr. Newman and my brother, Kenneth Bae. It has been a devastating experience for my brother and my family, so we pray every day for his release. Now we're including Mr. Newman in our prayers. We cannot forget about these two men. For every action that the US government takes toward his release, we are thankful. Likewise, we appreciate the ongoing advocacy by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. We plead with the DPRK leaders to show mercy and release Kenneth and Mr. Newman.
Kenneth has now been detained for more than a year, longest of any American since the Korean War. He is the only one to have served time in the labor camp until he had to be hospitalized. Kenneth has chronic conditions that require treatment by his doctors at home. It is time for him to come home to his family."
KING 5's John Langeler contributed to this report