Today North Korea announced that it has detained a US tourist who it says entered the country in April and broke the law. CNN reports that North Korean officials have said the man’s name is Jeffrey Edward Fowle and he is being held for acting “contrary to the purpose of tourism.”. The US citizen entered the country as a tourist on April 29 but it is not clear how old he is, where he is from or who he was traveling with.
The detainment of another a US tourist raises concerns about the safety of Americans traveling abroad, particularly to an area as controversial as The North. North Korea has been promoting tourism to earn badly needed foreign currency, but the country is extremely sensitive about how visitors act while in the country. Last month the US State Department updated a travel warning and strongly advised against visiting the North and warned about arbitrary arrests, long-term detention, and punishment or expulsion for “activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea.”
“Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities,” the State Department said.
According to The Washington Post, at least three US citizens are currently detained in North Korea. American Matthew Todd Miller was taken into custody two months ago after tearing up his visa and declaring that he was not a tourist. The reclusive state’s Korean Central News Agency said the 24-year-old was detained April 10 for his “rash behaviors.”
In 2012 Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, was arrested and charged with “hostile acts against the state”. In 2013, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying to overthrow the government. Although North Korea contains a number of state-controlled churches, the totalitarian regime forbids independent religious activities, viewing them as potential threats to its authority. Officials from the Swedish Embassy have been meeting with Bae regularly. Sweden represents US interests in North Korea because the United States has no diplomatic presence in the secretive state.
In October 2013, US tourist Merrill Newman was detained shortly before leaving the country. The 85-year-old Korean War veteran had taken a tour to revisit the land he once spent time in as an infantryman. He was deported by North Korea two months later and safely returned home. Since 2009, North Korea has detained at least nine US citizens, whom have later been released.
Today’s announcement by North Korea draws attention to the risk of overseas travel some Americans face. Hopefully this is the last story we will hear for a while of a US tourist detained in a foreign land.
[Image via thetimes.co.uk]