Tag Archives: North Korea

Jeffrey Fowle

North Korean Detainee Reunites With Family in Ohio 

Above: Jeffrey Fowle is greeted by family members upon his arrival, early Wednesday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and LARA JAKES, Associated Press

An American arrested and held for nearly six months in North Korea for leaving a Bible at a nightclub returned home to Ohio on Wednesday to tears of joy and hugs from his wife and surprised children.

A plane carrying Jeffrey Fowle landed Wednesday morning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, where he was reunited with his family. Fowle was released with help from a retired diplomat and former Ohio congressman.

Moments after Fowle, carrying two bags, stepped off a plane just after 6:30 a.m., his three children and wife ran from a nearby airplane hangar and shared hugs.

Base Col. John Devillier said Fowle had a tearful reunion, and that Fowle was happy and seemed thrilled to be back in the U.S.

“We had a great reunion for an American citizen coming home,” he said.

Devillier said Fowle’s family hadn’t told the children why they were being brought to the base and that it was a surprise for them to see their father walk off the plane.

“The reaction from his children was priceless,” Devillier said. “They hadn’t seen their dad in some time. The expectation would be that they would get teary eyed and they did, and I did, too. It’s great to welcome him home.”

Tony Hall, a retired diplomat and congressman who used his connections with North Korean officials to discuss Fowle’s case, said he was excited about Fowle’s release.

A lot of people were involved, he said, but he declined to name any of the officials in Pyongyang to whom he reached out. He said he was never asked by either the U.S. or North Korea to go to Pyongyang on Fowle’s behalf.

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, along with China and Japan and envoys from Mongolia, which has relations with North Korea, were also involved, Hall said.

Hall said he got involved at the request of Fowle’s family and attorney, as well as the State Department, which led the push for Fowle’s release.

“So I spent a lot of time communicating and trying to use some of the relations I’d built up over the years,” Hall told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Outside the family’s home in rural southwest Ohio, family attorney Timothy Tepe said Fowle had been treated well by the North Korean government and needed time to adjust to life at home.

“The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Jeff and his family. Jeff needs some time right now to get adjusted to his life at home,” Tepe said, flanked by Fowle, his wife, Tatyana, and their three children.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at the nightclub, something Fowle acknowledged in interviews with the AP. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.

He had been awaiting trial — the only one of three Americans held by Pyongyang who had not been convicted of charges.

The two others were each sentenced to years in North Korean prisons after court trials that lasted no more than 90 minutes. The three Americans entered North Korea separately.

The Fowle family, despite their joy, is mindful that two other Americans continue to be detained by North Korea and they understand the disappointment their families are experiencing, Tepe said.

United States North Korea

There was no immediate explanation for the release of Fowle, who was whisked to the U.S. territory of Guam, where doctors declared him in good health, before heading back to Ohio.

A report released by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, took “a special measure” by releasing Fowle, who was referred to as a “U.S. criminal.” The report said Kim took “into consideration the repeated requests of U.S. President Barack Obama.”

In Berlin, Secretary of State John Kerry said “there was no quid pro quo” for the release of Fowle.

The government welcomed Fowle’s return.

“The release of all of these individuals is a top priority and something that the U.S. Government has long advocated for, both publicly and privately,” said National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell. “We have followed these cases closely in the White House.”

Some analysts believe that North Korea’s calculus in releasing Fowle may reflect several larger concerns, including the regime’s efforts to counter criticism of its human-rights situation following the release earlier this year of a groundbreaking U.N. report laying out the regime’s widespread abuses against its own citizens. The European Union and Japan have been pushing a U.N. resolution to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court, and Pyongyang doesn’t want the issue to even get to a vote.

Additionally, relations between Washington and Pyongyang are particularly bad, raising the possibility that the U.S. could strengthen its sanctions against the North or call on its allies to clamp down harder.

Fowle’s release could thus be seen as an attempt to feel out Washington and see if there is any possibility of broader talks.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage, a contention that Pyongyang denies. Washington, too, has floated the possibility of a diplomatic opening should North Korea free the detainees.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not say whether any American officials had intervened directly with the North Koreans.

“We’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why did they decide to do this,” Harf said. “But we are pleased that he was able to leave, and urge the immediate release of the other two.”

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.

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Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Associated Press journalists Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Jim Kuhnhenn, Deb Riechmann and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jeffrey Fowle

American Jeffrey Fowle Released From North Korea

by LARA JAKES, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released, the State Department said Tuesday.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was on his way home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. Fowle is from Miamisburg, Ohio. Harf said the U.S. is still trying to free Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae.

Associated Press journalists in Pyongyang spotted the U.S. government plane at the capital’s international on Tuesday.

Washington has tried for months to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to seek release of the three men.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage in its standoff with the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs, a charge that Pyongyang denies.

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Associated Press reporters Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Wong Maye-E/AP. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

South Korea: Anti-North Korea Protest in Paju

SKorean Activists Vow to Send More Leaflets Across Border

by HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean activists vowed Thursday to launch balloons next week carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border into North Korea, days after their campaign triggered gunfire between the rival Koreas.

North Korea considers leaflets an attack on its government and has long demanded that South Korea ban activists from sending them. South Korea refuses, saying the activists are exercising freedom of speech.

Last Friday, North Korea opened fire after propaganda balloons were floated from the South. South Korean soldiers returned fire, but there were no reports of casualties. North Korea has warned it would take unspecified stronger measures if leafleting continues.

South Korean activist Choi Woo-won said Thursday his group won’t yield to the North’s threats and plans to send about 50,000 leaflets on Oct. 25.

“Our government and people must not be fazed even though North Korea, the criminal organization, is blackmailing us,” said Choi, a university professor.

He said his leaflets will urge a military rebellion against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “The leaflets will tell North Korean soldiers to level their guns at Kim Jong Un, launch strikes at him and kill him,” Choi said.

Another activist Lee Min-bok said he was also ready to fly millions of leaflets, which describe South Korea’seconomic prosperity and urges North Koreans to flee, as soon as weather conditions such as wind direction are favorable.

“No one can block my rights [to send leaflets],” said Lee, whose leafleting Friday from a South Korean border village was believed to have directly caused North Korea to start firing.

The leafleting was high on the agenda when military generals from the two Koreas met in a border village on Wednesday in the countries’ first military talks since early 2011. During the meeting, North Korea requested again that South Korea prevent leafleting, but South Korea said it could not comply, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

Friday’s shootout came three days after navy ships of the two Koreas exchanged gunfire near their disputed western sea boundary, the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the countries in recent years.

South Korean military officials earlier described the Oct. 7 shootout as an exchange of warning shots. But they later revealed at least one of three South Korean navy ships involved aimed to destroy a North Korean ship but failed because of a mechanical problem in its artillery guns.

The shootout happened because the North Korean ship violated the sea boundary and opened fire in response to warning shots fired by the South Korean ship, according to officials at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The North Korean quickly turned back to its waters after the South Korean ship began firing, they said.

Earlier, hopes for better relations were given impetus after a group of high-level North Korean officials made a rare visit to South Korea earlier this month and agreed to resume senior-level talks.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Lee Young-Ho/Sipa USA.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

spy

Alleged North Korean Spy Sentenced to Three Years In Jail

by STEVE HAN

A female North Korean spy, who allegedly disguised herself as a defector, was sentenced to three years in prison by the South Korean Supreme Court on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

 

South Korean prosecutors said that the 39-year-old spy, identified only by her last name Lee, used a special drug distributed by North Korea’s security department to “erase her memory and cheat the lie detector” during the intensive questioning by the South Korean spy agency, which puts all defectors through rigorous interrogation to prevent spying from North Korea.

According to the prosecution, North Korea sent Lee to monitor a defector carrying out anti-North Korean activities.

Lee initially confessed her spy activities in a lower court trial, but filed an appeal later to revise her testimony, claiming that she was forced to give her confession by the South Korean National Intelligence Service.

Lee’s lawyer, Park Joon-young, condemned the Supreme Court’s verdict, saying the ruling disregarded the truth.

“There’s no drug that erases one’s memory anywhere in the world,” Park reportedly said. “It’s disappointing that the ruling was based on false confessions.”

rodong sinmun

Kim Jong-un Reappears in Public for the First Time in 40 Days

by REERA YOO

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made his first public appearance in about 40 days, giving a “field guidance” to a newly built residential district, according to state news agency KCNA on Tuesday.

KCNA reported that Kim visited the Wisong Scientists Residential District and the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy, adding that the leader had a photo session with scientists. However, the news agency did not publish these photos or any videos of his visit. KCNA also did not specify when Kim made his visit, although it’s presumed that the visit occurred on Monday.

According to Reuters, there were also several pictures of Kim walking with a cane published on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

However, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrall said he could not confirm the KCNA report at this time.

“We have seen these breaking reports but have nothing for you on their authenticity at this time,” he said.

Kim has not been seen in public since his attendance at a musical concert with his wife on Sept. 3. His disappearance has spurred peculations and rumors ranging from gout to a military coup, despite the U.S. debunking rumors of a coup as “false.”

Earlier this month when senior officials of the North Korean delegation met with South Korean representatives, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae asked Kim Yang Gon, secretary of North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party, about rumors of Kim Jong-un’s ill health. The secretary at the time responded that there were “no problems at all.”

Photo courtesy of Rodong Sinmun and BBC

reuters american soldiers

North Korea Says Remains of U.S. Soldiers Being “Carried Away En Masse”

by REERA YOO

North Korea said Monday that remains of thousands of American soldiers killed during the Korean War were being “carried away en masse” due to construction projects and flood damage, the Associated Press reported.

The Korean War, which lasted from 1950-53, ended in an armistice that left the peninsula still technically at war. About 8,000 U.S. service members are listed as missing, and among them, 5,300 are believed to be in North Korean soil. According to the New York Times, there have been 33 joint recovery operations conducted by the U.S. and North Korea between 1996 and 2005. However, Washington suspended recovery efforts in 2012 due to rising tensions over the North’s plans to launch a long-range rocket.

On Monday, an unidentified North Korean military spokesman told the state media that U.S. war remains “now look like no better than stones as land rezoning and other gigantic nature-remaking projects made progress.”

He added, “The Obama administration should not forget even a moment the proverb saying that even a skeleton cries out of yearning for the homeland.”

Analysts believe that North Korea’s statement is an apparent effort to pressure the U.S. into resuming recovery efforts, which could lead to much-needed cash for the reclusive country as well as better ties with Washington, reported AP.

Last week, there were signs of easing tension when top-ranking officials of the North Korean delegation met with South Korean negotiators and agreed to resume high-level talks. However, just days after the meeting, the two Koreas exchanged fire at the disputed sea border and again traded machine gunfire across the armed land border after South Korean activists launched balloons carrying anti-Pyonyang leaflets.

Photo courtesy of Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

South Korea: Anti-North Korea Protest in Paju

Kim Jong-Un Misses Another Major Event Amid Exchange of Gunfire at Land Border

Pictured above: South Korean activists prepare balloons for carrying propaganda leaflets that condemn North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Photo courtesy of Lee Young-Ho/Sipa USA and AP)

by FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For the first time in three years, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un didn’t appear at a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party on Friday, further increasing speculation that something is amiss with the authoritarian leader who hasn’t been seen publicly in more than a month.

North Korea’s propaganda machine conveyed the no-show to the world in its typical murky and indirect fashion — a state media dispatch that excluded Kim’s name from a list of senior government, military and party officials who paid their respects at an event marking the party’s 69th anniversary.

Indications that Kim remains firmly in power were evident, however. His name appeared on a flower basket placed before statues of his father and grandfather, both of whom also ruled North Korea, and an earlier dispatch said the might of the party “is growing stronger under the seasoned guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un.”

State media haven’t shown Kim, who is thought to be 31, performing his customary public duties since he attended a concert Sept. 3. He had been walking with a limp and was more overweight than usual in images that were broadcast before that. An official documentary from late last month described him as dealing with “discomfort,” which led to international speculation that he may be ill.

A group of South Korean activists, meanwhile, marked Friday’s anniversary by releasing anti-North Korean propaganda balloons across the border. North Korea responded later with machine-gun fire, and several of the bullets fell south of the border near a military base and a residential area, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

He said South Korea then fired 40 rounds from machine guns. North Korea then opened fire with rifles, which South Korean soldiers responded to in kind, he said. There were no reports of damage or injuries, but the exchange of fire was a reminder of the bitter rivals’ animosity despite recent glimmers of trust building.

Much of what happens in North Korea’s inner circles is hidden from the eyes of outsiders and even average North Koreans. This leaves media in South Korea and elsewhere to speculate, sometimes wildly, about what’s really happening. Some reports say Kim could have gout, diabetes or other ailments, with much of the speculation based on that single reference in the documentary and unidentified sources speaking to South Korean media.

South Korean officials are playing down the speculation.

In Seoul, Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol told reporters Friday that Kim appears to be in charge of key affairs. Lim noted that a high-level North Korean delegation conveyed his greetings to South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a surprise visit to South Korea last week that had raised hopes for better ties between the countries. Lim said North Korea’s state media has continuously reported about Kim’s leadership.

North Korea has said nothing publicly about Kim’s absence. It is not his first break from the media spotlight — he wasn’t seen publicly for about three weeks in 2012, South Korean officials say — and a senior North Korean official on last week’s visit to the South told a South Korean official that Kim was fine.

Without the extended absence, Kim’s nonattendance Friday would not be all that unusual. Such anniversaries generally have more weight in landmark years. A high-profile celebration, for example, is expected for next year’s 70th anniversary of the ruling party.

Because North Korea has publicly acknowledging Kim’s “discomfort,” many analysts believe that he’s unlikely to be suffering from anything particularly serious. When his father, Kim Jong Il, suffered major health problems late in his life, state media said nothing. Kim Jong Il was believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, and his death on Dec. 17, 2011, was not announced for two days.

But each day the younger Kim is absent only adds to the speculation. He missed a meeting of parliament late last month and a gathering this week marking his late father’s election as ruling party head. Kim also was not seen in North Korean media reports greeting the athletes who returned from the Asian Games in the South, although they received a lavish reception and heavy media coverage.

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Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Eric Talmadge in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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North Korea Publicly Acknowledges Existence Of Labor Camps for the First Time

by STEVE HAN

North Korea publicly acknowledged the existence of its labor camps for the first time, apparently in response to a highly critical U.N. human rights report, but dismissed all accusations of human rights violations in its camps.

North Korean foreign ministry official Choe Myong-nam made a rare appearance in an open meeting at the U.N. on Tuesday before a room full of diplomats and journalists to emphasize that there are “no prison, things like that” anywhere in the reclusive country, according to the Associated Press.

“Both in law and practice, we do have reform through labor detention camps – no, detention centers – where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings,” said Choe, who represents the North Korean Association for Human Rights Studies.

“Labor detention camps” are internment sites where the North Korean regime holds political activists, many of whom commit the “anti-state crime” against the country. Released in February, the U.N. report cited testimonies from North Korean exiles, who confirmed that “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence” are among common occurrences at the camps.

“While the North Korean human rights record remains abysmal, it is very important that senior North Korean officials are now speaking about human rights, and expressing even pro forma interest in dialogue,” Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said in an email.

“The North Korean strategic approach to human rights issues used to be to simply ignore reports by international NGOs, government agencies or U.N. bodies. Human rights used to just go away, out-competed by nukes, missiles, and military provocations.”

Although Scarlatoiu called North Korea’s public admission of its labor camps “a modest step in the right direction,” he emphasized that Choe’s statement does not acknowledge the bleak conditions of the camps, which is estimated to hold 120,000 people.

Photo courtesy of Daily Mail U.K.