Kenneth Bae, who was born in South Korea and became an American citizen at the age of 16, felt a lifelong calling to help those in North Korea, known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It was this calling that led to Bae’s arrest on November 3, 2012, when he accidentally brought an external computer hard drive into the DPRK and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Nearly two years after his release on November 8, 2014, Bae is opening up about his grueling experience in Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea (May, Thomas Nelson/W Publishing), co-written with Mark Tabb.

Bae’s story begins with a visit to North Korea in 2010 when he made a vow to become “a blessing and a bridge” to the nation. A year later, he moved to China and started a tour company that led excursions in and out of the neighboring DPRK. After 18 trips there, Bae was detained.

“First it was the external hard drive, and then they realized I was a missionary,” Bae told PW. “They said I was the worst American criminal, the most dangerous [they] ever apprehended in North Korean history, [and they saw me] as the mastermind to a terrorist attack.”

Bae said he was treated as a threat to the North Korean government because, as a Christian missionary, his message was that there is more to life than the nation’s system and ideology. While imprisoned, Bae endured hard labor, constant surveillance, and failing health. He was forced to answer to the name “prisoner 103” and was told repeatedly that his country had forgotten him.

“Obviously I was never in prison before,” he said. “To be called prisoner 103 was devastating, to see that I’m actually locked in as a prisoner.”

By interacting with his guards and nurses, and by watching television, Bae learned what life was like in North Korea.

“Nightly I was forced to watch their TV—up to six hours a day—and I saw how most people got information about the outside and about themselves through their own media,” he said. “It was mostly propaganda—their version of the truth about life.”

Despite the odds against him, Bae maintained hope and purpose by remembering heroes of the Bible who were also held prisoner. “Part of my email address has 103 in it as a daily reminder not to forget the time I was in North Korea,” he said.

With help from organizations such as the U.S. State Department and church leaders around the world, Bae was released—735 days after his arrest. Continuing his life’s calling, Bae hopes to reach readers with his story in Not Forgotten.

“Through this book I want to highlight ordinary North Koreans’ daily lives so that people can have more understanding of what life is like there, to have more compassion for [their] isolated, forgotten lives,” said Bae. “The more we care, the more changes we can bring to North Koreans.”

Further, the book does not alienate secular audiences, according to Bae. “This message is not just for Christians, and it’s not only about North Korea; but about God’s faithfulness.”