According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korean officials have detained Jeffrey Edward Fowle, an American tourist, for acts inconsistent with the purposes of tourism. This makes the third American being held for illegal activities in North Korea.
Fowler was detained last month because he “perpetrated activities that violated the laws of our republic, which did not fit his stated purpose of visiting our republic as a tourist,” according to the KCNA. The news agency went on to say that the proper agencies have detained Fowler and are currently investigating him.
While the actual cause of the arrest is yet unknown, the Japanese news agency Kyodo stated that Fowler was part of a tour group and was detained following the discovery of a Bible he had left in his hotel room.
The United States State Department has acknowledged that they are aware of the information stemming from KCNA, but have yet to make any moves to reclaim Fowler: "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. We have no additional information to share at this time."
North Korea kidnaps American tourist. Hoping for prisoner swap, headlines? http://t.co/LgZTYMrbMw
— Joe Henchman (@jdhenchman) June 6, 2014
With the detention of Fowler, North Korea now holds three American citizens for crimes against the state, despite the fact that the U.S. State Department issued a warning against travelling to the country, stating, "Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea."
Along with Fowler, North Korea also currently holds 24-year-old Matthew Todd Miller and evangelist Kenneth Bae. Miller is being held by North Korean authorities after he decided to rip-up his visa and ask for asylum in the country. Bae is currently serving a 15-year state sentence of hard labor after he was discovered attempting to establish a proselytizing ring in the country, using his tourism business as a front.
While North Korea does support state-controlled churches, it bans independent religious acts because they are seen as a threat to the state.
Unfortunately for Fowler and others, the United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea. If the detainees wish to leave the country anytime soon, they must pin their hopes on the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, the representative body in North Korea for the United States.
If North Korea's past refusal to allow Robert King, America's special envoy to North Korea for issues dealing with human rights, access to the country to free Kenneth Bae is the precedent to go by, Fowler and Miller may be held for yet quite some time.
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