Until recently, three Americans were held against their will in North Korea. Kenneth Bae was convicted on charges of planning to overthrow the North Korean government; he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. Matthew Miller is currently facing six years of hard labor for committing hostile acts. Finally, Jeffrey Fowle, a street-repair worker, was arrested after authorities discovered a bilingual English-Korean Bible that he had allegedly left in a Pyongyang nightclub. Officially, North Korea endorses “freedom of religious belief;” however, Christian evangelism is illegal. North Korean state media has reported that Kim Jong-un personally ordered the release of Fowle at the numerous requests of President Obama. North Korea often trades held foreigners to elicit economic concessions. Secretary of State John Kerry, however, has stated that “there was no quid pro quo” in this case.
Fowle has three children and a predilection for adventure, which was why he was touring North Korea in the first place. His fellow tourists described his character as friendly and quiet. The Bible in question is reported to have contained the name, several pictures, and the phone number of Fowle. About to leave the country via plane, Fowle was arrested at an airport three days after his visit to the aforementioned nightclub. Fowle was subsequently held for about six months. Since the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden acted as an intermediary for Fowle’s release.
A Department of Defense plane retrieved Fowle and returned him to his family at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Fowle has been examined by doctors and is reported to be in good health. Having lost his job after his benefits ran out, Fowle will accept an offer to return to his work. American officials are still trying to secure the release of the remaining two Americans in North Korea. In the past, North Korea has released Americans after visits from notable dignitaries such as former President Bill Clinton, who traveled to the country in 2009 to secure the release of two journalists.