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After appearance, family 'gravely concerned' about U.S. missionary held in North Korea

Kim Kwang Hyon / Kim Kwang Hyon / AP

American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.

The sister of an American missionary detained in North Korea for more than a year said on Monday that she’s heartbroken and encouraged by Kenneth Bae’s appearance in a news conference in which he admitted to committing anti-government acts.

“I was encouraged that he appeared to be in decent health, but it was still painful to see him in his prison uniform, number 103,” wrote Terri Chung, Bae’s sister “My brother is not a number to me, or to the rest of his family. He is a kind and loving husband, father, son and brother — and needs to be home immediately."

The family said Bae seemed worn down physically and emotionally in the Monday briefing that was attended by members of the foreign press.

"We remain gravely concerned about his health,” she wrote.

In the news conference, Bae expressed hope the U.S. government would do its best to win his release. He said he had not been treated badly.

His sister, meanwhile, asked for “increased support” from the government and implored President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to “take immediate action.”

The statement from Chung also included a direct apology to North Korea:

"To the leaders of DPRK ("Democratic People Republic of Korea"), we understand that Kenneth has been convicted of crimes under DPRK laws. Our family sincerely apologizes on Kenneth's behalf. Kenneth has also acknowledged his crimes and has apologized. He has now served 15 months of his sentence, but faces chronic health problems. We humbly ask for your mercy to release my brother."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said over the weekend that U.S. government was continuing to work with the Swedish Embassy, which acts as an intermediary, to secure Bae's release. 

"As we have said before, we remain very concerned about Kenneth Bae's health," Psaki said Saturday. "We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant Bae amnesty and immediate release."

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Kenneth Bae speaks: US missionary detained in North Korea pleads for help