North Korea released information today that it is holding American citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle for "hostile activities" after Fowle reportedly left a Bible in his hotel room. According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Fowle violated his visa regulations.
KCNA went on to give information about Fowle's visit, namely that he entered North Korea as a tourist on April 29. It also gave more information on Fowle's current condition: "A relevant organ of the DPRK detained him and is investigating him." No other details were given. Additional information about Fowle's visit came from Japanese news agency Kyodo which said, according to diplomatic sources, Fowle was held in mid-May after leaving a Bible in his hotel.
According to CNN, the U.S. State Department said it was "aware of reports that a third U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea," yet declined to give more information. The official went on to say, "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad." According to the U.S. Department of State's website, "The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK)." There is "risk of arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens in North Korea."
2 Others Being Detained
On April 10, another American man, 24 year-old, Miller Matthew Todd (according to KCNA), was detained by North Korea. KCNA reported that Todd entered the country on April 10 as a tourist, then tore up his visa, asking for asylum. The U.S. responded similarly to this situation, saying it was aware of the report and was in touch with Sweden, representing American interests in the country.
In 2013, Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by a court, alleging the man carried out acts aimed at bringing down Kim Jong Un's regime. According to the website Free Kenneth Bae, Bae started his own tourism company in North Korea, "combining his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian," to "show compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism." According to the site, Bae suffers from chronic health conditions and was recently transferred to a state hospital as his health deteriorated. Jonathan Bae, Kenneth's son, has started a petition to free his father (found here). The petition already has over 162,000 signatures and needs 37,257 more.
North Korea "Sending a Signal"
In response to these acts, Professor Yang-Moo Jim of the University of North Korean Studies said "The North is sending a signal that it won't yield to any outside pressure and it will continue being stern in dealing with any threat to its regime."
U.S. Legislation Toughens Sanctions Against North Korea
On May 29th, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs committee passed legislation aimed at toughening sanctions against North Korea. The bill "strengthens existing sanctions against North Korea by prohibiting North Korea's access to critical resources that keep the Kim regime in power." The legislation "holds North Korean officials accountable for gross human rights abuses."