Kenneth Bae brings a unique perspective to North Korea, being one of very few Westerners to have spent substantial time in jail there.
The missionary, who ran guided tours to North Korea from China, was arrested in November 2012 and not released until two years later, becoming the longest-serving American prisoner in the North.
Bae visited North Korea 17 times, proselytizing where he could. But on his 18th trip, he was caught by customs officials with videos shot clandestinely during his trips. He was accused of trying to overthrow the regime and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
The regime shamelessly used him as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Washington. They first told him he would be able to return to the U.S. if he cooperated but did not tell the U.S. untill Dec. 11, 2012 that he had been arrested.
The next day Pyongyang launched a space rocket widely seen as a test of long-range missile technology. Bae said that was his lowest point, shattering his hopes of being released any time soon as the West started to freeze North Korea out.
North Korean officials constantly harassed and threatened him. He was repeatedly interrogated during the day and in the evenings had to watch endless propaganda films.
During his time in jail he lost 27 kg, forcing officials to send him to hospital.
But then, on Nov. 3, 2014, Bae was taken to the Koryo Hotel, and there he found a U.S. envoy awaiting him. Given a special pardon thanks to a backdoor deal between the two governments, he boarded a plane home to the U.S. that same afternoon.
"I prayed every day and never lost hope of my release, and it ended up being 735 days," Bae said. The diary he kept in North Korea was confiscated, but he was able to describe the events to his ghostwriter Mark Tabb.
"I thought I knew North Korea after visiting it 18 times, but the country I experienced there was totally different," he said. "The outside world knows nothing about North Korea, and North Koreans have no idea of the outside world."
He knows his days as a missionary in the North are over, but he says he hopes to start an NGO to help North Koreans and defectors.