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American Detained in N. Korea Offers Dramatic Release Story

  • Baik Sungwon

Jeffrey Fowle is greeted by his son and other family members upon his arrival at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Oct. 22, 2014.

Jeffrey Fowle is greeted by his son and other family members upon his arrival at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Oct. 22, 2014.

An American who was detained in North Korea said he was informed of his release less than an hour before boarding an airplane that took him home.

In a phone interview Tuesday with VOA, Jeffrey Fowle offered dramatic account of how he was released from the oppressive communist state.

The 56-year-old man from Miamisburg, Ohio, said he thought he would be put on trial when a North Korean official came and asked him to pack up.
“I was waiting for some kind of indictment or official arraignment or something to occur,” said Fowle.

Then, another North Korean official came and delivered the unexpected news.

“The Supreme Leader and the First Chairman of the Korean Workers’ Party [Kim Jong Un] has recommended that you be released,” Fowle recalled the official telling him.

Immediately following the unexpected revelation came a meeting with two officials from the U.S. Defense Department who were there to take him home.

“I had not been informed of this until that very moment, and half an hour later we were on the tarmac taking off,” said the former detainee.

Fowle said one of the two Pentagon officials was a doctor who conducted a medical exam on him. The other official was a Korean-American whose job apparently was that of translator.

Fowle said he did not meet any high-level official during his journey home.

Fowle was arrested in May for leaving a bible in a Seamen’s Club in the nation's northern port city of Chongjin.

He was one of three Americans detained in North Korea. The other two, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, were detained on charges of committing “hostile acts” and "unruly behavior," respectively.

In a surprising series of moves, Pyongyang freed Bae and Miller last week after releasing Fowle late last month.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.

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