WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday that a US consular official and two doctors last week visited in a Pyongyang hospital an American serving hard labor in North Korea for an illegal border crossing.
"We requested permission to visit Mr. (Ajalon) Gomes. That permission from the North Korean government was granted," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
Crowley said a translator accompanied the consular official and doctors on the visit, adding: "I believe they visited him in a hospital."
He said the team was in Pyongyang from August 9 through August 11.
"The basis of the trip was simply our ongoing concerns about Mr. Gomes's health and welfare," Crowley said.
Gomes, a 30-year-old former English teacher in South Korea and reportedly a devout Christian, was arrested in January after he crossed the border without permission. He was sentenced in April and fined the equivalent of 700,000 dollars.
Last month North Korea said Gomes tried to commit suicide and was being treated in hospital.
A State Department official said the team that met with Gomes had asked that he be released, but "North Korea did not agree to do that."
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