In an interview with CNN on Monday morning, American Kenneth Bae described the hard labor he had to endure during his imprisonment in the North Korean regime.

Bae was held captive in the isolated country from 2012 to 2014 and was forced to perform grueling tasks like shoveling coal and hauling rocks. He expressed his relief of being freed from imprisonment and sat in front of the reputed media outlet for his first live interview post his release in 2014. “I worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at night, working on the field, carrying rock, shoveling coal,” Bae told CNN.

“I’m thankful every day and grateful for so many people that were involved in trying to get me home,” Bae added. “It’s unreal just to see that I’m actually sitting in the studio talking to you … 735 days in North Korea was long enough. But I’m thankful.”

Bae was imprisoned in North Korea for 15 years of hard work due to his involvement in “hostile activities” being undertaken against the country, according to Time. He became the US citizen held and detained for the longest period of time since the Korean War. Bae remembered the days when he did not only face physical exploitation but also faced mental torture in the form of verbal abuse from the North Korean officers. “No one remembers you. You have been forgotten by people, your government. You’re not going home anytime soon. You’ll be here for 15 years. You’ll be 60 before you go home,” Bae recalled one of the prosecutors repeatedly telling him so.

The US citizen still did not lose hope. “I certainly hoped when I was in North Korea … that someday I’ll be able to come home and celebrate with the friends and family that have been praying, rooting for my release,” he said. It was in November 2014 when a top US officer arrived in North Korea with a letter from US President Barack Obama, which led to his release after.

Bae never came forward to speak up until Monday after he launched his book “Not Forgotten” in March. He thanked the US and North Korean governments for helping him enjoy the freedom. He revealed in this book his experiences during his 735 days and described his state of mind during his imprisonment in the North Korean regime.