Joy of US missionary's family after North Korea release

This undated photo received from on October 12, 2013 shows US citizen Kenneth Bae posing for a photo at an undisclosed location (AFP Photo/ (

Washington (AFP) - The family of Kenneth Bae welcomed the US missionary's sudden release from North Korea on Saturday, expressing joy that the 46-year-old's two-year ordeal was over.

Bae's sister Terri Chung said in a statement her family was now looking forward to an unforgettable celebration of Thanksgiving later this month now her brother was free.

Bae, from Washington state, was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years hard labor. He was released by North Korea on Saturday along with another American, 24-year-old Todd Miller, following a dramatic secret mission by US spy chief James Clapper.

"Words cannot adequately express our relief and gratitude that Kenneth is finally coming home," Chung said in a statement.

"We have been waiting for and praying for this day for two years. This ordeal has been excruciating for the family, but we are filled with joy right now.

"I am thrilled to imagine hugging my brother soon. He will not have to spend another day at a labor camp. He can now recover from this imprisonment and look forward to his wife, kids and rest of his life.

"Our Thanksgiving celebration this year will be one we will never forget."

Born in South Korea, Bae was jailed by North Korea after being accused of plotting to overthrow the reclusive state's regime.