American Man Detained in North Korea

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 09:36 p.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Kim Jong-un clapping" Photo by: Petersnoopy October 9, 2010 http://www.flickr.com/photos/54050720@N05/6549444309/

PYONGYANG--North Korea has detained an American man as he tried to leave the country following his tourist trip which began on 29 April 2014. State media identified the man as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, of Maimisburg, Ohio and he is the third American citizen to be detained by Pyongyang in the past 18-months.

He was arrested for what they describe as activities inconsistent with his stated intent on his tourist visa. Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that he allegedly left a Bible in a hotel where he had been staying. North Korea has been promoting tourism in an effort to attain foreign currency, but the country is sensitive to how visitors act while in the country.

The State Department has warned against travel to North Korea, and being part of a tour group will not prevent possible arrest. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there’s “no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” though they cannot give any further information about specific details without consent from the individual.

Because the U.S. has no diplomatic presence in North Korea, the Swedish Embassy handles consular matters for Americans in North Korea and are working to return Fowle to his three children, ages 9,10, and 12, and his wife, Tatyana, a 40-year-old Russian immigrant.

The Swedish embassy has been in contact with one of the other two U.S. detainees, Kenneth Bae, 45, a Korean-American missionary from Lynwood, Washington who is serving 15 years of hard labor for alleged hostile acts against the state aimed at bringing down the regime of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea contains state-controlled churches but forbids independent religious activities. Bae is fearful for his health after he was returned to labor camp following a stay in the hospital. He told Swedish diplomat, Cecilia Anderberg, that he has likely lost 10 pounds since his return to the camp. Bae spends eight hours a day doing manual labor with his hands, and he suffers back and neck pain.

U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has offered to go to North Korea to help with Bae’s release. For a second time, North Korea has rescinded its invitation to Ambassador Robert King, with no explanation. Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg, has visited Pyongyang, but for matters unrelated to the 3 Americans held captive.

Matthew Miller, or Miller Matthew Todd, 24, is being detained for improper behavior after he entered North Korea on April 10th with a tourist visa, tore it up, and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum with North Korea “as a shelter.” Last year an 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War, Merrill Newman, was freed from Pyongyang, after being held for several weeks following an organized private tour in the country. He was released after involuntarily giving a videotaped confession apologizing for killing North Koreans during the war.

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