Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The opening ceremony for the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone, an area designated as one of North Korea’s economic development zones (EDZ), took place on October 30, 2014.
According to a report on October 31 by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone is an EDZ which was developed under the July 23, 2014 decree of the Standing Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly, and covers nearly 3,800 hectares in various parts of Pangsan-ri and the Chongsong Workers’ District in Sakju County, North Phyongan Province.
It was reported that the Chongsu Tourist Development Zone was opened through cooperation between North Korea’s North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee and China’s Liaoning Province, Dandong City People’s Government, and Dandong Overseas Travel Co. Ltd.
In an interview with the KCNA, Kwak Jin Ho, director of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee’s Department for Economic Zone Development, said about the development prospects of the Chongsu tourist zone: “This area will be developed into a tourist zone equipped with modern tourism and service facilities while also highlighting the distinct characteristics of Korean folklore.”
Director Kwak also stated, “The zone’s infrastructure, public facilities and tourist service facilities will all be built to meet modern standards. Currently there are plans to construct factories for special product manufacturing, as well as areas for livestock, orchards and fisheries. With these targets, there are also plans for a cultural recreation district, Korean folk village, general services area, Korean folk hotel, as well as processing plants for spring water, fruits, wild greens and kimchi.”
In addition, Director Kwak said in the interview, “The hillsides will be transformed into orchards to create a tourist destination filled with scarlet and white peaches and other high quality fruit trees.” With regards to visiting the area, Director Kwak stated, “Due to the geographical location of the tourist zone being along the border, tours are generally half-day or one-day trips.”
It was also noted that the Chongsu and Youlgol Revolutionary Historic Sites will be included among visitor destinations, and that there are plans to include the Chongsong Bridge, which was used in the Korean War, and other Pangsan-ri locations as tourist destinations.
With regards to the tourist development zone, the KCNA expressed its anticipation, saying, “When it begins, tourism will attract many tourists to this zone and will therefore form an international tourism link between Chongsu and Dandong, China.”
According to Xinhua:
The Chinese border city of Yanji in northeastern Jilin Province has opened a direct bus tour service to the neighboring Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), tourism authorities said Monday.
A total of 48 Chinese tourists and two Chinese guides ended their two-day tour to the city of Rason on Sunday completing the first batch of bus tours in Yanji, said Wang Yanbo, deputy chief of Yanji tourism bureau.
The group visited Rajin Port, greenhouses housing Kimilsungia and Kimjongilia, both flower species named after the late DPRK leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the Korean Ethnic Cultural Park and the beachside of Pipa Island, said Lian Qinghua, general manager of Yanbian Northeast Asia Passenger Transport Group Co,. Ltd travel agency, operator of the tour.
The journey to the DPRK takes around four hours and will operate from Tuesday to Saturday, Lian said.P Compared with other travel methods to Rason, the nonstop trip avoids transfer processing at the China-DPRK border, he said.
Travel figures show about 10,000 Chinese tourists visit the DPRK annually.
Read the full story here:
Chinese border city opens bus tour to DPRK
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The number of foreign tourists visiting North Korea in the first half of 2014 has increased by 20 percent compared to the previous year. The Choson Sinbo, a news outlet affiliated with the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported the following on July 15: “The amount of foreigners looking to visit Choson (North Korea) is continuing to increase. . . . [and] according to Choson International Travel Agency President Ham Jin, the number of foreign tourists has increased by 20 percent over the previous year in just the first six months of 2014.” The Choson Sinbo, however, did not release detailed information of the total number of visitors.
The article mentions tour-package diversity as the secret to the recent increase in foreign visitors, saying, “Since the beginning of the year, the recently opened Masikryong Ski Resort has been well received by skiing and hiking enthusiasts.” It also mentions that “Military enthusiasts are also showing interest in the Korean People’s Army Exhibition of Arms and Equipment, the Jonsung Revolutionary Museum, and other military-related locations.”
The Choson Sinbo also mentioned the recent surge in popularity for railroad enthusiasts to visit Pyongyang and experience the subways and railroads. Furthermore, president Ham Jin was also quoted as saying, “In the future, tourism packages will be created to cater to surfing enthusiasts and badminton enthusiasts.”
North Korea has decided to cancel this year’s “Arirang” mass games, a large-scale performance which previously accounted for a hefty share of the nation’s tourism revenue. Instead, the country will focus on the development of new tourist attractions. The DPRK has already established a travel agency that will oversee the visitation of the world’s Taekwondo athletes, and is promoting “tent tourism” in beach areas to attract Chinese tourists to various beaches in Rason city.
On July 14, 2014, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) introduced camping areas, touting the move as a “novel idea at the height of its popularity,” saying, “many tourists are enjoying swimming, taking walks, and fishing as they spend their afternoons and evenings in tents along the long sandy beaches in Rason.”
Rason, which has been designated as a special economic zone (SEZ), is renowned for its beautiful beaches in Chujin and Pipha Island and other locations frequently visited by Chinese tourists in the summer.
According to the KCNA, “Rason International Travel Agency has collaborated with Yanbian Spring International Travel Agency of Jilin Province in China to open a two-night, three-day camping event which took place from July 12th to the 14th.” At the event, it was said that Chinese tourists visited downtown Rason City during the day, and returned to the beach in the evening to pitch their tents, swim and enjoy freshly grilled squid and mussels.
Along with the opening of the “Rason-Yanji Angling Tourists’ Festival” on June 28, 2014, North Korea has been focusing on the Rason area, churning out a slew of new activities easily accessible to Chinese tourists.
Here is coverage in Yonhap:
“The number of foreigners visiting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is continuing to increase,” said the Chosun Shinbo. It quoted Ham Jin, head of the (North) Korea International Travel Agency, as saying the figure jumped 20 percent on-year during the January-June period.
But the newspaper did not reveal how many foreign tourists visited the reclusive country during the six-month period.
The newspaper said the country’s new ski resort in Masikryong has grown popular among foreigners, along with mountaineering courses and military-related tourist spots.
The lavish resort, opened in January this year, is one of the pet projects of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who reportedly enjoyed skiing while attending school in Switzerland in the early 1990s.
Read the full story here:
Number of foreign tourists to N. Korea jumps 20 pct in H1
Pictured above (Google Earth): April 2010 satellite imagery of the Kumgang tourist resort
The Kumgang resort was receiving 400,000 visitors per year until in July 2008 it became the scene of a terrible tragedy, the shooting of a South Korean tourist. Following the incident, the South Korean government prohibited its citizens from visiting the resort until the DPRK allowed a joint-Korean investigation of the shooting and made a guarantee of future safety. The DPRK never agreed to these terms so the park fell idle.
The suspension of the project has cost the DPRK government millions of dollars. In response it has moved to pressure the ROK government to change course and allow the tours to resume. Below I have kept a timeline of the course of these events and their outcomes.
2014-7-14: The Hankyoreh marks July 11–the 6th anniversary of the day when tours to Mt. Keumgang in North Korea were suspended.
“As a result of the suspension of tourism to Mt. Keumgang, we have lost nearly 1 trillion won [US$981 million], including the 300 billion won [US$294.32 million] invested in the facilities and an estimated 530 billion won in lost revenue,” the investors said. They urged the governments of North and South Korea to immediately hold working-level talks to resume tourism to Mt. Keumgang and to hold reunions for divided families.
“The position of the government is that the issue of the safety of its citizens must be resolved before it can allow tours to Mt. Keumgang to resume. In addition, given the continuing UN Security Council sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing, which occurred after tours to Mt. Keumgang were halted, we think that the tours cannot be resumed until the government indicates that doing so would not be in violation of UN sanctions,” said Ministry of Unification spokesperson Kim Ui-do during a regular press briefing on July 11.
2011-8-24: Kumgang opened to DPRK and Chinese toursits
2011-8-23: South Korean workers leave Kumgang
2011-6-2: “DPRK Law on Special Zone for International Tour of Mt. Kumgang” released. PDF of the statute here.
2011-4-29: SPA designates Kumgang special zone
2010-11-15: Kumgang re-fozen
2010-5-16: Taephung shows Chinese investors Kumgang
2010-4-23: Seoul denounces the seizure
2010-4-11: Employees told to leave/sealed up
2010-3-24: Investors worried about losing out
2010-3-18: DPRK threatens to seize Kumgang Resort
2010-3-18: Hyundai-Asan’s chief offers to resign
According to Reuters:
While the country does not publish tourist numbers, travel agencies estimate as many as 6,000 Westerners visit the country every year, compared to just 700 a decade ago. Most are adventure-seekers curious about life behind the last slither of the iron curtain, and ignore critics who say their dollars are propping up a repressive regime.
Beijing-based Koryo Tours, one of the biggest operators sending Westerners into North Korea, has seen a tenfold rise in business in the past decade, peaking at about 2,100 visitors in 2012, according to Simon Cockerell, its general manager.
Around a quarter of those, Cockerell said, were American.
Troy Collings of Young Pioneer Tours, another China-based foreign travel agency specialising in trips to North Korea, says his company is seeing business double annually, and had nearly 1,000 clients in the past year.
Read the full story here:
Isolated North Korea a visitor draw, but sometimes literally a tourist trap
UPDATE 11 (2014-9-25): Matthew Miller reports on prison life.
UPDATE 10 (2014-9-19): Jeffrey Fowle has been removed from his job at the city of Moraine, Indiana. Sounds like he got a severance package and the ability to be reinstated. Read more here.
UPDATE 9 (2014-9-14): Miller has been sentenced:
Here is the report in KCNA:
U.S. Citizen Tried in DPRK
Pyongyang, September 14 (KCNA) — A trial of U.S. citizen Miller Matthew Todd was held at the Supreme Court of the DPRK on Sunday.
He committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist in last April.
The court sentenced him to six years of hard labor.
Several days later, on September 20, KCNA published this longer piece on Miller:
KCNA Releases Detailed Report on Truth about Crime of American
Pyongyang, September 20 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following detailed report on Saturday:
Recently another American was arrested and tried for committing criminal acts against the DPRK.
A due legal judgment was passed on the American for his crime committed as part of the U.S. anti-DPRK human rights campaign and he admitted his crime and accepted the judgment.
However, officials of the present U.S. administration responsible for his crime took issue with the just legal action taken by the DPRK like a guilty party filing the suit first. They raised unreasonable “human rights issues” in a foolish attempt to cover up the crimes perpetrated by Americans.
Upon the authorization, the KCNA discloses the truth behind the crimes committed by American Miller Matthew Todd.
He was sentenced to six years of hard labor at a trial held on September 14. He entered the DPRK as a tourist on April 10, 2014 and rudely behaved, tearing off his tourist visa when he was going through formalities for entry at Pyongyang Airport. So, he was put in custody by a relevant organ.
The results of the investigation made it clear that he did so not because of simple lack of understanding and psychopathology but deliberately perpetrated such criminal act for the purpose of directly going to prison after being intentionally reprimanded by a legal organ of the DPRK, pursuant to the present U.S. administration’s anti-DPRK campaign, spying on “human rights” performance and making it known to the world.
On the basis of this investigation the DPRK Supreme Public Prosecutors Office issued warrant of arrest for Miller Matthew Todd and accused him of criminal responsibility according to Article 64 of the Criminal Law of the DPRK and put him in custody.
According to the preliminary examination, Miller Matthew Todd left a university halfway and remained jobless in Yongdungpho District, Seoul City of south Korea. There he had inveterate hostility towards the DPRK while systematically listening broadcasting programs and reading publications of the U.S. and south Korea slandering the DPRK.
He believed that people in the DPRK have neither freedom nor human rights and if they disobey the government they would be subject to a miserable prison life. So, he had a foolish idea of spying on prison and human rights situation while experiencing “prison life” after intentionally committing crimes in violation of the law in the DPRK.
He tried to find a way for entering the DPRK. It was his calculation that when he kicked up a fuss tearing off tourist visa while going through formalities for entry as a tourist he would be arrested by a relevant organ and taken to “prison”. So, he applied for tour through a travel agency in the U.S.
Prompted by the intention to refurnish his image before finding his way to “prison” he had prepared a memo book in advance. It contained the following sentences: “I seek a political asylum. I am seeking refuge after failing in my attempt to collect information about the U.S. Government. I am planning to open to public information like Snowden.”
He, at the same time, prepared iPad and iPod he claimed containing important information about the military bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in south Korea which he gathered by having access to internet and papers containing invectives against the north let loose by defectors from the north he obtained by visiting them.
According to the already worked out scenario, he tore off his tourist visa while going through formalities for entry and insisted that he came in pursuit of “refuge” and he sought “political asylum”.
He confessed during the preliminary examination that he tried to meet American Kenneth Bae who had been sentenced to hard labor if he succeeded in going to “prison” and have negotiations for Bae’s “release” and become “witnesses” together with Bae disclosing the “human rights” situation in the DPRK after leaving prison.
As proved by his confession, the crime committed by Miller Matthew Todd was prompted by his sinister political aim to deliberately slander the DPRK in the light of his aim, preparations and implementation of his plan.
He perpetrated the above-said acts in the hope of becoming a “world famous guy” and the “second Snowden” through intentional hooliganism. This is an intolerable insult and mockery of the DPRK and he, therefore, deserved a punishment.
What mattered was that his crime timed to coincide with the reckless remarks made by officials of the present U.S. administration including Secretary of State Kerry terming the dignified DPRK a “country of evil” over its rocket firing and elections to power bodies in March and April this year, and the smear campaign over its “human rights issue.”
What he committed was espionage coming under Article 64 of the Criminal Law of the DPRK.
This case of the American helps the army and people of the DPRK recollect what miserable end American spies met after being arrested before infiltrating into the prisoners’ camp where a lot of American POWs including Dean, commander of the 24th Division of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces, were in custody, for the purpose of spying on it during the last Fatherland Liberation War.
Much water flowed under the bridge and old generation was replaced by a new one but the shameful tradition of the U.S. in which it was hit hard and sustained heavy setbacks by the DPRK historically and the latter’s proud tradition in which it meted out a stern judgment to the former, the kingpin of plot-breeding, are given steady continuity and these law-governed two traditions will last forever.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office of the DPRK brought the Supreme Court an indictment against the American as the truth about the crime committed by the accused was confirmed by his statement and evidence.
The Supreme Court of the DPRK held a trial of him on Sept. 14.
There was no pleading by the counsel as the accused rejected it and the trial was held in camera according to his request.
At the trial he admitted that he committed the crimes, prompted by his political motive to personally spy on the “human rights” situation in the DPRK and disclose it in a bid to isolate and stifle the DPRK’s system.
The Supreme Court of the DPRK sentenced Miller Matthew Todd to six years of hard labor according to Article 64 of the criminal law.
The army and people of the DPRK are now watching with vigilance the forces behind the scene as Miller’s crime was committed in pursuance of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and strongly calling for ferreting out all those who dare provoke the dignified DPRK and meting out a merciless punishment to them, no matter who they are and where they are.
The disgusting U.S. which is behaving in the international human rights arena as if it were an inborn “judge” and those who are acting like tiger moths, talking about “human rights” pursuant to its line will not be able to escape a judgment by the era and history and the present U.S. administration clinging to the evil repugnancy toward the DPRK and its inveterate hostile policy toward the latter will not be able to evade the responsibility for the recent case of the American.
UPDATE 7 (2014-8-2): Fowle and Miller interviewed:
In their first appearance since being detained more than three months ago, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle told a local AP Television News crew that they were in good health and were being treated well. They also said they were allowed to take daily walks. The brief meeting was conducted under the condition that the specific location not be disclosed.
Fowle said he fears his situation will get much worse once he goes on trial.
“The horizon for me is pretty dark,” he said. “I don’t know what the worst-case scenario would be, but I need help to extricate myself from this situation. I ask the government for help in that regards.”
It was not clear whether they were speaking on their own initiative, or if their comments were coerced. The TV crew was permitted to ask them questions.
North Korea says the two committed hostile acts which violated their status as tourists. It has announced that authorities are preparing to bring them before a court, but has not yet specified what they did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face. The date of the trial has not been announced.
Ri Tong II, a North Korean diplomat, declined to answer questions about the Americans at a news conference Friday at the United Nations. But when pressed in a follow-up question he said their cases were “legal issues” and they had “violated our law.”
Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin, but a spokesman for Fowle’s family said the 56-year-old from Miamisburg, Ohio, was not on a mission for his church. Fowle works in a city streets department. He has a wife and three children, ages 9, 10, and 12.
“The window is closing on that process. It will be coming relatively soon, maybe within a month,” Fowle said of his trial. “I’m anxious to get home, I’m sure all of us are.”
Fowle also produced a letter he said he had written summarizing his experience in North Korea.
The attorney for Fowle’s family said Friday his wife hadn’t seen the video, but had read news reports about his comments.
“I can tell you that she is very upset, as you can imagine,” said attorney Timothy Tepe. He said he and the family were still gathering information and likely would have a statement on Monday.
Less is known about Miller, or about what specific crime he allegedly committed.
North Korea’s state-run media have said the 24-year-old entered the country April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. A large number of Western tourists visited Pyongyang in April to run in the annual Pyongyang Marathon or attend related events. Miller came at that time, but tour organizers say he was not planning to join the marathon.
“I expect soon I will be going to trial for my crime and be sent to prison,” Miller said. “I have been requesting help from the American government, but have received no reply.”
James Pearson writes in Reuters:
American tourist Jeffrey Fowle was arrested by North Korean authorities for leaving a bible under a bin in the toilet at a club for foreign sailors, a source familiar with Fowle’s case told Reuters.
During his ten day trip to North Korea, Fowle’s fellow travellers described the middle-aged street repairs worker from Miamisburg, Ohio as a warm, amiable, quiet man.
On May 4, towards the end of an evening spent eating and drinking in Chongjin, a large industrial city on North Korea’s east coast, Fowle’s action led to him being thrown in jail, where he is awaiting trial in one of the world’s most inhospitable countries.
He left a bilingual English-Korean bible in the restaurant he and his fellow travellers were about to leave, the source, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivities surrounding the case, told Reuters.
In it, Fowle had written his name and phone number, and inserted photos of himself and his family between its pages.
He was arrested three days later at the airport where he was due to board a flight out of North Korea.
Fowle and fellow detained U.S. tourist Matthew Miller – who was arrested in April for a separate incident – said they will face trial soon and have called on the U.S. government to help secure their release in an interview to the Associated Press, released on Friday.
A hand-written letter from Fowle shown in the interview confirmed he was arrested for intentionally leaving a bible in the northern city of Chongjin.
It is unclear why Fowle left the bible, the source familiar with Fowle’s case said. Media reports in Ohio said the 56-year-old is a church goer and was once a member of his school’s bible club – but there is little evidence to suggest he was a missionary.
The source familiar with Fowle’s arrest also said he did not seem overtly religious.
Yet, at the Chongjin Seamen’s Club – a faded compound originally designed as a hostel for visiting mariners that sells foreign whiskeys and serves local food – Fowle wrapped a bilingual English-Korean bible bound in fake leather in a Chinese newspaper and hid it the restroom, under a bin designed to discard the used toilet paper North Korea’s ageing plumbing can’t handle.
A cleaner found the package, and alerted local authorities.
When his guides asked if anyone had left anything at the club – a small cluster with shops, a sauna and noodle restaurants also open to locals with the cash to spend on cheap drinks – he said it was him, and that he “must’ve dropped it.”
Fowle said at the time the bible had “fallen out of his pocket” when using the squat toilet, but the bible was too big to be pocket-sized, the source said.
While North Korea technically espouses freedom of religion it is ranked as one of the world’s most oppressive regimes in terms of such freedom. Pyongyang has dismissed recent reports on its oppression of religion as an attempt by the United States to “tarnish the image” of the isolated country.
Two months before Fowle visited North Korea, Australian missionary John Short had been arrested for leaving bible tracts at areas open to tourists in the isolated country. Short, 75, was released on account of his advanced age after state media released a written apology.
Fowle appeared in an Associated Press video on Friday alongside Miller, who was arrested for ripping up his tourist visa and attempting to claim political asylum, according to state media.
North Korea has three U.S. citizens in custody, including Kenneth Bae, a missionary of Korean descent who was arrested in November 2012 and convicted and sentenced to 15 years hard labour last year.
Chongjin is one of the most sensitive cities open to tourists visiting North Korea. The scene for much of journalist Barbara Demmick’s ‘Nothing to Envy’ book, based on a collection of interviews, it is the very epitome of the grim, grey Orwellian North Korea recalled by defectors.
“They don’t mess about in Chongjin,” one tourism source with experience of working in the city said.
If Fowle had hidden a bible anywhere else in North Korea, he probably wouldn’t have been arrested, sources in the North Korean tourist industry said. Sources working in North Korea are often forced to remain anonymous when talking to the press for fear of state reprisal or loss of business.
If the staff at the Seamen’s Club who found the bible had told Fowle’s guides, and not the authorities, they might have avoided the arrest too, the source familiar with his arrest said.
Fowle hid the bible on May 4. He later admitted to the group that he had left it there deliberately, for “someone to read.”
The rest of Fowle’s group didn’t talk to him when they heard what he had done. They felt he had put them in danger.
After the incident, Fowle had two days of normal sightseeing in Pyongyang, where he took photos of large bronze statues of North Korea’s former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
He was arrested on May 7, once he cleared customs at Pyongyang’s Sunan airport.
Suspicions about Hostile Acts by American against DPRK Confirmed
Pyongyang, June 30 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency made public the following report on Monday:
The relevant organ of the DPRK has made investigation into American tourists Miller Matthew Todd and Jeffrey Edward Fowle who were detained while perpetrating hostile acts after entering the territory of the DPRK.
According to the results of the investigation, suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies.
The relevant organ of the DPRK is carrying on the investigation into them and making preparations for bringing them before court on the basis of the already confirmed charges.
Contact with an official looking after consular affairs, treatment, etc. in the course of investigation are being made in line with the laws of the relevant country.
Here is coverage of the announcement in the Wall Street Journal,
Reuters offers this helpful summary of related events:
HAPHAZARD LEGAL SYSTEM
North Korea’s haphazard and inconsistent legal system makes it difficult to predict the outcome for the detained tourists.
It has detained and then released other Americans in the past year, including Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, whom it expelled last December after a month-long detention based on accusations of war crimes related to his service history.
Australian missionary John Short was arrested in February this year for leaving copies of bible verses at various tourist sites during his stay. Short, 75, and Newman, 86, were released on account of their advanced age and health condition, state media said in the wake of published confessions from the two men.
Another U.S. national, Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who had been arrested in November 2012, was convicted and sentenced by North Korea’s supreme court to 15 years hard labor last year.
Pyongyang has detained a number of U.S. citizens in the past, using them to extract visits by high-profile figures, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton who in 2009 helped secure the release of two U.S. journalists who had secretly entered the country by crossing into the country from China.
The journalists, Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee, were released after being tried by a city court in Pyongyang and given a ten-year hard labor sentence.
But North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Bae’s case.
UPDATE 5 (2014-6-8): Jonathan Cheng writes more information about Mr. Fowle in the Wall Street Journal:
Jeffrey Edward Fowle, the American citizen detained by North Korea, is a municipal road-maintenance man from southwestern Ohio with a globe-trotting past.
Mr. Fowle, who was arrested by North Korea after arriving for a tour on Apr. 29, is a 56-year-old resident of Miamisburg, Ohio, a city of about 20,000 residents on the outskirts of Dayton. He attends church in nearby West Carrollton, Ohio, and repairs streets for Moraine, Ohio, population 6,307.
But Mr. Fowle’s small-town roots belied a keen interest for the wider world. Before venturing into North Korea, Mr. Fowle made regular trips to Russia with his wife and traveled to war-torn Sarajevo in early 1997, less than a year after the four-year siege of the Bosnian city was lifted.
Timothy Tepe, a Cincinnati lawyer who represents Mr. Fowle’s family, said Mr. Fowle wasn’t on a mission for Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, Ohio, where he attended church. Mr. Tepe didn’t immediately reply to requests for further comment.
Joseph Shihady, a pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in West Carrollton, where Mr. Fowle attended services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, said Mr. Fowle traveled to North Korea as a tourist.
“He’s a fine fellow, and we’re praying that he’ll get home safely,” Mr. Shihady said. “We know he’s in danger, and we’re concerned for him.”
In Washington, the State Department said that it was aware of reports about a third U.S. citizen who had been detained in North Korea, but declined to offer more details.
Mr. Fowle and his Russian immigrant wife live with their three children and the wife’s mother, according to a September 2010 interview with Mr. Fowle by the Dayton Daily News.
WHIO, a Dayton-based CBS affiliate, on Saturday cited a family friend as saying that Mr. Fowle’s wife had tried to dissuade him from going to North Korea, calling it too dangerous.
During his eight-day trip to the former Yugoslavia in 1997, Mr. Fowle spent four days in downtown Sarajevo with a Muslim family whose apartment walls were scarred by shrapnel following a missile attack, according to an earlier interview Mr. Fowle gave to the Dayton Daily News.
Nearly two decades later, Mr. Fowle finds himself at the center of a diplomatic tangle. Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio), which represents Mr. Fowle’s town, said in a statement that he was “deeply troubled” that Mr. Fowle had been held.
Late last month, North Korea sentenced a Christian missionary from South Korea, Kim Jung-wook, to a life of hard labor, following his October arrest on charges of working to overthrow the regime. Seoul had pleaded for his release.
UPDATE 4 (2014-6-6): WDNT in Ohio has some information on Mr. Fowle and a photo of him and his family.
The Christian Science Monitor has more.
UPDATE 3 (2014-6-6): Choe Sang-hun and Rick Gladstone report in the New York Times that Mr Fowle is a “A municipal worker from Ohio on a tour of North Korea”.
The Korean Central News Agency provided no further details about Mr. Fowle but local media in the Dayton, Ohio, area said that he was a 56-year-old municipal worker in the suburb of Moraine and had a wife and three children. The website of the Dayton Daily News said the Moraine city manager, David Hicks, had described him as a longtime employee. Telephone messages left on Mr. Fowle’s home telephone answering machine and with Mr. Hicks’s office were not returned.
UPDATE 2 (2014-6-6): The Guardian reports (via other sources) that Mr. Fowle was being detained for leaving a Bible in his hotel room.
UPDATE 1 (2014-6-6): According to KCNA:
American Citizen Detained in DPRK
Pyongyang, June 6 (KCNA) — American citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle entered the DPRK as a tourist on April 29 and acted in violation of the DPRK law, contrary to the purpose of tourism during his stay.
A relevant organ of the DPRK detained him and is investigating him.
ORIGINAL POST (2014-6-5): According to Reuters:
North Korea detained another U.S. citizen in mid-May, bringing the total to three currently being held in the country, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said on Friday, quoting diplomatic sources.
The man was part of a tour group who was detained just before he was set to leave the country, according to the sources.
In April, the North said it had detained an American, Matthew Todd Miller, who had arranged a private tour of the country through a U.S. company. North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary who was arrested in 2012 and has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of state subversion.
Pictured above (Google Earth): Mt. Paektu and the locations of tourist infrastructure on the Chinese and Korean side of the border.
According to Yonhap:
North Korea is set to open its portion of the Korean Peninsula’s highest mountain to Chinese tourists this month, a travel agency official said Wednesday, resuming the tour route that has been suspended since the North conducted its third nuclear test.
If realized, it would represent another bid by North Korea to increase tourism income by approving more tour routes that start in Chinese cities.
The peninsula’s highest peak, Mt. Baekdu, sits on the border between North Korea and China. Tourists can visit the Chinese side of the mountain, but the tour route to the North Korean portion has been halted following the North’s nuclear test in February last year.
The two-day or three-day tour to the North Korean side of the 2,749-meter mountain starts from the Chinese border city of Helong in the northeast of China. Helong is part of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Jilin Province and a popular border town for travel to North Korea.
The official at the travel agency in Helong, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the tour route will be reopened in the middle of this month.
“It is the only route for tourists from China to see the eastern side of Mt. Baekdu,” the official said, adding that the trip will only be available for Chinese tourists.
The two-day trip will cost 1,100 yuan (US$175.8) per person and the three-day trip will cost 1,350 yuan, according to the official.
North Korea is one of the world’s most secretive and isolated nations, but Pyongyang has stepped up efforts to attract foreign tourists, particularly those from China.
Earlier last month, North Korea started its first one-day cycling trip from the Chinese border city of Tumen. The tour is not available for non-Chinese travelers.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea, China to resume tours to Korean Peninsula’s highest mountain
According to KCNA:
Number of Chinese Tourists Grows in DPRK
Pyongyang, June 2 (KCNA) — The tour by Chinese was conducted in the Rason area of the DPRK from May 31 to June 2, under an agreement made between the DPRK’s Rason International Travel Company and China’s Yanbian Arirang International Travel Agency.
Involving in the tour were more than 40 Chinese, who toured Pipha Islet, the Rason Taehung Trading Company, Rajin Port and other places by private cars.
This was the eighth batch of Chinese this year to visit the DPRK by private cars.
In this regard, an official at the Tourism Bureau of the Rason City People’s Committee, told KCNA:
“The tour by private cars began in June Juche 100 (2011), with due ceremony in the Rason economic and trade zone. Since then, more than 1 300 tourists have made trips to the area by more than 300 private cars in 70-odd batches.
Other forms of tourism are expected to grow in scope.”
According to China Daily:
A one-day bus tour from the northeast China border city of Longjing to Hoeryong in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was launched on Tuesday.
The opening of the route will enable Chinese tourists to arrive in Hoeryong directly, without transferring to a DPRK vehicle at the port, according to Wang Jing, a government worker from Longjing in Jilin Province.
“This will save tourists a lot of time and facilitate the whole journey,” Wang said.
A total of 134 tourists joined the tour on the first day of the route opening.
The trip costs 580 yuan (94 US dollars) per tourist. Tourists can visit historical sites on the DPRK side, taste Korean delicacies and enjoy performances by DPRK artists.
China and the DPRK have in recent years witnessed booming border tourism on the back of multiple travel schemes aimed at boosting the regional economy.
The DPRK has opened several cities for group tours from China, including Rason, Namyang, Chongjin and Mount Kumgang. About 10,000 tourists from Yanbian, also in Jilin, visit the DPRK annually.
The process for for preparing Hoeryong for Chinese tourists has been underway for several years. Hoeryong’s “Food Avenue” was completed in 2010. Chinese tourists started showing up in 2012. Western tourists started showing up in 2013.
Just a few days ago, the Chinese and DPRK launched day-long bicycle tours of Namyang. Previously, Chinese tourists could only take day tours of Sinuiju (an experience that is now available to western tourists) and Rason.
UPDATE: Here is coverage in KCNA (2014-6-4):
One-day Bus Tour of Hoeryong by Chinese People
Pyongyang, June 3 (KCNA) — Chinese people made the first one-day bus tour of Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, the DPRK.
After the tour, the Chinese tourists told that they were deeply impressed by their visit to the DPRK.
Jin Bo (male: 55), deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Office in Yanbian Korean Nationality Autonomous
Prefecture, told as follows:
The one-day tour from Longjin to Hoeryong, China by Chinese bus helped the tourists deepen their friendly feelings towards the DPRK.
The tourism course was very excellent. Many tourists said that they felt as if they were in Pyongyang.
I think one-day tour of Hoeryong will be one of major attractions for Chinese in the near future.
Sha Chunxia (female: 44), a staff of Yanbian News, said:
I was deeply moved to see an art performance given by kindergarteners.
It was hardly believable that the five-or six-year old children could give such an excellent performance.
I have never thought of giving art education to my daughter.
The educational system in the DPRK is very admirable.
I want my daughter to be educated under such excellent system.
Later, I will come together with my daughter to see the performance.
Read the full story here:
China, DPRK border cities open one-day bus tour