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American jailed in North Korea asks U.S. for help: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Korean-American sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea is asking U.S. officials to help secure his release from prison and is seeking forgiveness from North Korean officials, according to a media report on Wednesday.

In an edited interview obtained by CNN, Kenneth Bae, who was convicted by North Korea in April of trying to overthrow the state, said he was being patient and coping well despite poor health. The footage showed Bae wearing a dirty, blue-gray prison uniform and seeming thinner than before, according to the television network.

"My hope is that North Korea will forgive, and the U.S. will try harder to get me out speedily. I am asking for their help," Bae said in the translated interview, posted on CNN's website.

The eight-minute interview, which was recently obtained by the Tokyo-based Choson Sinbo newspaper and shared with CNN, is thought to be Bae's first public comments since he was convicted, according to CNN.

"I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon," Bae said, according to CNN.

Bae, 44, was sentenced after North Korea's Supreme Court convicted him of crimes against the state, saying the missionary used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government. Bae has acknowledged being a missionary and said he had conducted religious services in the North.

Bae, who was born in South Korea but is a naturalized U.S. citizen, said he had been hoping to be sent home in time to celebrate the U.S. Independence Day holiday on Thursday, which is also his father's 70th birthday, according to CNN.

"I was hoping the problem would be worked out by the end of June," he said.

Bae also said he works about eight hours a day in the North Korean labor camp but that people are considerate toward him.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Eric Beech)

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