A month after sentencing one American to six years of hard labor, North Korea released another American tourist who was expected to face charges.
“We can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to re-join his family,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him.”
Fowle, 56, of Miamisburg, Ohio, was seized April 29 after entering the country as a tourist and acting “in violation of the DPRK law, contrary to the purpose of tourism during his stay,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported on June 6.
His family’s lawyer said in a statement this summer that the street maintenance worker “loves to travel and loves the adventure of experiencing different cultures and seeing new places.”
Reports have indicated that Fowle was arrested after a Bible was discovered in his hotel room.
In addition to Bakersfield resident Matthew Miller, arrested April 10 “for his rash behavior in the course of going through formalities for entry into the DPRK to tour it,” Pyongyang still holds Washington state resident Kenneth Bae, a devout Christian sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor last year.
Bae thought he could help suffering North Koreans in part by leading a tour company in the special economic zones that would help reveal the people’s plight.
Miller allegedly wanted to investigate the deplorable human rights conditions in North Korea. Pyongyang said the Californian tore up his visa after arriving in the country.
“While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them,” Harf said. “The U.S. Government will continue to work actively on their cases.”
“We thank the Government of Sweden for the tireless efforts of the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, which acts as our Protecting Power in the DPRK.”
Harf added that “as a condition of his release, the DPRK authorities asked the United States Government to transport Mr. Fowle out of the country.”
“The Department of Defense was able to provide transportation for Mr. Fowle in the time frame specified by the DPRK,” she said. “We will provide additional details about Mr. Fowle’s return home as we are able to do so.”
Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. government sent a DoD aircraft flown by military personnel based out of Hawaii to pick up Fowle.
“What I can tell you is that, at the request of the State Department, we did provide an aircraft to effect the transportation of Mr. Fowle out of North Korea,” Kirby said.