North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 2, 2013

North Korea orders hard labor for U.S. man, local Bangladeshi mayor suspended after garment factory tragedy, and the ECB cuts rates to record low. Today is Thursday, May 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

An undated still image of video footage released in Seoul by Yonhap News Agency on May 2, 2013, shows a portrait of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae. Credit: Reuters/Yonhap

Paging Bill Clinton. North Korea sentenced American citizen Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labor for crimes against the state, most likely to give Pyongyang bargaining power with the U.S.:

Bae, 44, was born in South Korea but is a naturalized American citizen and attended the University of Oregon. According to U.S. media, he most recently lived in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood. A North Korean defector said Bae will likely serve his sentence in a special facility for foreigners, not in one of the repressive state’s forced labor camps. More than 200,000 people are incarcerated in these camps, beaten and starved, sometimes to death, according to human rights bodies.

Human rights activists say Bae may have been arrested for taking photos of starving North Korean children. Some North Korean media outlets report that he owns a tour company that plans trips to the north-eastern part of the state. Kae has been in North Korean custody since November, when he visited the country with four other tourists. North Korea has a history of detaining Americans and releasing them, at times following visits from former U.S. presidents. It took a visit from former president Bill Clinton for North Korea to release two American journalists in 2009. Ties between North Korea and the U.S. have been especially strained for the past few months over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Local mayor suspended after Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident. As the death toll in a garment factory collapse soared to over 400 people, the local mayor was suspended for approving the construction of the fallen building:

A senior official from the state-run Capital Development Authority (CDA) said last week that the Savar municipality did not have the authority to grant the permit it had issued for a five-story building at the site, and that three more floors had been illegally added to the building. “We won’t spare anyone… actions will be taken against all who are responsible for the tragedy,” Nanak said.

Officials arrested eight people in connection to the building’s collapse, including the building owner, and are still looking for a fifth factory boss. The EU said it may reconsider Bangladesh’s preferred status as a trade partner in order to force the country to strengthen safety regulations for garment workers.

ECB plays it safe with record-low interest rate. The European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates for the first time in ten months today, hoping to help small companies access credit and promising euro zone banks as much liquidity as they need into the next year:

Economic data over the last month have bolstered the case for action, with unemployment hitting a record high in April, when inflation saw its biggest monthly drop in over four years, to 1.2 percent. “The ECB is playing it safe, even though they know the effect is likely to be limited,” Nordea analyst Anders Svendsen said of the cut.

The cut came as little surprise following reports on the bloc’s unemployment and inflation rates earlier this week, and economists don’t expect the move to significantly improve the euro zone’s economy.

Nota Bene: Kazakhstan is working with the United States on the Boston bomb investigation after two Kazakh citizens were accused of interfering with the probe.

Standouts:

Goodbye, Guantanamo - Reuters columnist Daphne Eviatar explains how Obama can shut down the controversial prison. (Reuters)

Best job ever? - Norway wants you to be their new polar bear spotter. (Time)

Broadcaster bullying - The BBC says it will crack down on an “undercurrent of fear” in the workplace. (BBC)

Old country, Alaska - A 17th century Russian community avoids modernization in modern-day Alaska. (The Atlantic)

WWII poster stokes fury - Should “Keep Calm and Carry On” be trademarked? (The Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

  • More than 60 killed in gold mine collapse in Sudan’s Darfur
  • BBC star admits sex abuse as Britain wonders who’s next
  • Kenya finds two Iranians guilty of planning attacks
  • South Africa suspends protocol boss over wedding flight scandal
  • April bloodiest month in Iraq since 2008: U.N.

 

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