American Man Detained in North Korea

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 09:36 p.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Kim Jong-un clapping" Photo by: Petersnoopy October 9, 2010 http://www.flickr.com/photos/54050720@N05/6549444309/

PYONGYANG--North Korea has detained an American man as he tried to leave the country following his tourist trip which began on 29 April 2014. State media identified the man as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, of Maimisburg, Ohio and he is the third American citizen to be detained by Pyongyang in the past 18-months.

He was arrested for what they describe as activities inconsistent with his stated intent on his tourist visa. Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that he allegedly left a Bible in a hotel where he had been staying. North Korea has been promoting tourism in an effort to attain foreign currency, but the country is sensitive to how visitors act while in the country.

The State Department has warned against travel to North Korea, and being part of a tour group will not prevent possible arrest. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there’s “no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” though they cannot give any further information about specific details without consent from the individual.

Because the U.S. has no diplomatic presence in North Korea, the Swedish Embassy handles consular matters for Americans in North Korea and are working to return Fowle to his three children, ages 9,10, and 12, and his wife, Tatyana, a 40-year-old Russian immigrant.

The Swedish embassy has been in contact with one of the other two U.S. detainees, Kenneth Bae, 45, a Korean-American missionary from Lynwood, Washington who is serving 15 years of hard labor for alleged hostile acts against the state aimed at bringing down the regime of Kim Jong-un.

North Korea contains state-controlled churches but forbids independent religious activities. Bae is fearful for his health after he was returned to labor camp following a stay in the hospital. He told Swedish diplomat, Cecilia Anderberg, that he has likely lost 10 pounds since his return to the camp. Bae spends eight hours a day doing manual labor with his hands, and he suffers back and neck pain.

U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has offered to go to North Korea to help with Bae’s release. For a second time, North Korea has rescinded its invitation to Ambassador Robert King, with no explanation. Former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg, has visited Pyongyang, but for matters unrelated to the 3 Americans held captive.

Matthew Miller, or Miller Matthew Todd, 24, is being detained for improper behavior after he entered North Korea on April 10th with a tourist visa, tore it up, and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum with North Korea “as a shelter.” Last year an 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War, Merrill Newman, was freed from Pyongyang, after being held for several weeks following an organized private tour in the country. He was released after involuntarily giving a videotaped confession apologizing for killing North Koreans during the war.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Kim Jong-un's North Korea Revealed on Hidden Camera

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Jessamy Nichols and Ayanna NahmiasLast Modified: 01:56 a.m. DST, 28 January 2014

Starving North Korean Children, 1997, Photo by Justin Kilcullen (Cropped)

PYONGYANG, North Korea - Unfortunately not all countries in today’s world govern on a moral foundation of democracy and human rights. However, many fall into the improving category, because in recent decades many governments have moved towards elections, freedom of the press and media, and openness to adopting other global cultural and political norms.

And then there’s the farthest end of the spectrum where the most egregious offenders remain. Countries like Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, etc. (Source: Maplecroft).

Though life under these regimes is brutal and the citizenry victimized, in North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the human rights abuses are on steroids. In the DPRK, there is no pretense toward basic human rights. To ensure complete dictatorial control, the borders are almost completely shut off to global interaction, media is censored, and propaganda is par for the course. Couple this with the possession of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and you have one of the world’s biggest threats to international peace wrapped up in one small country.

In Middle Ages fashion, Kim Jong-un rules with an iron fist that dictates how citizens speak, express themselves and live their lives. Carrying on the legacy of his father, Kim Jong-il, the current Kim continues to govern the country using public executions, intimidation, political prisoner camps, military threats, and ludicrous laws. Leaving the country without permission is even illegal, so citizens are forced to agree with Kim politically, economically and so forth because dissent routinely results in public executions. Even Kim's uncle, Jang Song-taek, was recently executed, purportedly because of his push for economic reforms.

This dismal and desolate state of affairs inside North Korea provides us with many sad and discouraging mental images, but what’s worse is that the citizens of North Korea cannot have their voices or stories heard because of North Korea’s paranoiac laws governing access to citizenry, as well as travel in and out of the country.

Luckily in the past few months, director James Jones worked with a Japanese journalist, Jiro Ishimaru, to use an underground network of North Korean reporters to gain a glimpse of the “real” North Korea. The insight and findings were made into a film entitled Secret State of North Korea, released earlier this month. The film gives voice to the growing skepticism and disapproval inside North Korea, where citizens are hungry for foreign movies and music and are eager for the day Kim is out of power.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19stdf_secret-state-of-north-korea_shortfilms

At this point, Kim’s method of rule continues to get more bizarre and far-fetched, as the state-controlled media boasts lies about landing people on the moon and Kim hosts parties with Dennis Rodman. Although, the potentially unbalanced retired basketball player, Rodman, has been to DPRK and is friendly with Kim, this by no mean implies that the country or its dictatorship is on the verge of embracing freedom or equality for its populace or a rational approach to international diplomacy.

Throughout history, nations and governments fall from within. When dictators start "partying" with former American basketball players, can the end be far behind? This type of hubris and excess, mixed with an increasingly frustrated population is a recipe for political pressure, friction, and eventual regime change.

It is widely accepted fact that a nuclear armed DPRK would have disastrous geopolitical consequences and thus all means public and private, have been brought to bear to prevent their success in this area. But the true defeat will come through the hands of the proletariat, and for them to be successful, the international community needs to continue to assert more pressure.

In this day and age of hackers, nothing is more porous than the Internet, and information is key, and knowledge is power. With the slightest bit of prodding, and continued calls for North Korea reform, the population could gain the impetuous they need to force Kim into improvements. Dictatorships are not sustainable, so let’s hope we see the end of North Korea’s sooner rather than later.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols