An American who was detained for nearly six months in North Korea said that he left a Bible in a nightclub hoping it would get into the hands of what he called the country’s underground Christian church. Jeffrey Fowle said he traveled to the country as a tourist but saw the opportunity as a way to follow the Christian mission “to carry the Gospel to all corners of the Earth.”
“I knew it was a risk, that I was taking a gamble, but I felt compelled to do that to aid the underground church in some small way,” Fowle said in an interview in his lawyer’s office. “I felt once I left the Bible somewhere that God would take it the rest of the way into the hands of some kind of Christian organization, and I’d be able to waltz out of country fat, dumb and happy, no problem,” he said. “But God had other plans.”
Fowle said he left the Bible — with his name in it — in a bathroom under a trash bin at a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin and hoped a Christian would find it. He chose that city and the nightclub in the belief there would be less security. He bought the Korean-language Bible before his trip.
Instead, his tour guide asked the next day if anyone had left a Bible there and he owned up to it. He was detained a few days later while going through customs before departure.
Fowle was taken to a hotel for about three weeks and questioned, then moved to another facility. He wrote a confession and answered questions about his motivations. He said authorities couldn’t believe he had acted on his own, but he made clear it was his own decision. He was treated well and was comfortable but was in his locked quarters 23 1/2 hours a day, he said.
He was allowed to speak in September to Western news organizations in five-minute interviews. He said he was given “talking points” for those interviews, meant to convey his “desperate situation.” He said he never considered going off script, although he did reject requests that he try to be more emotional and more demanding of the U.S. government.
Fowle said his release came as a surprise — he thought he was about to be taken to prison — and he was told by an American who helped escort him home that the North Korean government was responsible for his return.
U.S. officials are trying to win the release of two other Americans who are being held in North Korea, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae. Fowle said he had had no contact with either.
[The Columbus Dispatch]