In November of last year, we reported on an update of the State Department’s North Korea travel advisory. In the wake of the Fowle detention (which we covered last week), State has updated once again with one particularly interesting addition. The new advisory adds a section that notes explicitly that North Korea has detained U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. The added language includes the following:
“Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.”
We have not been altogether sympathetic with the detainees; some have clearly been naïve and taken risks (see the links to posts below). But the Fowle detention could be a departure. From the limited information we have based on diplomatic sources cited in the Japanese press, he appears to have done little more than leave a Bible in his hotel room. If true—and there could well be more—it revives a long-standing debate we have had in these pages on the ethics as well as safety of North Korean tourism. Reuters' James Pearson has a good review of the issues.
Other Posts on Detainees:
- Detainees and Envoys (April 2013; on the possible North Korean motive of securing visits by high level envoys)
- Detained Americans: Not-So-Innocents Abroad (September 2013; brief outlines of the American detainees)
- Merrill Newman “Confesses” (November 2013)
- Slave to the Blog: Detentions and Abductions Edition (June 2014; Fowle detention)