North Korea Holds American Over Bible Left in Hotel, Reports Say

US tourist is third American being held in North Korea.

June 6, 2014, 8:37 AM

SEOUL, South Korea June 6, 2014— -- An American tourist is being held in North Korea reportedly for leaving a Bible in a hotel room as he was leaving the country, according to news reports in North and South Korea.

He was identified in Korean without providing the English spelling, but it translates to Jeffrey Edward Fowle.

"The U.S. citizen, who entered the DPRK (North Korea) on April 29 as a tourist, engaged in activities that were in breach of DPRK's laws," the country's official Korean Central News Agency said today.

South Korea's Yonhap News quoting sources in North Korea said he had left a Bible in the hotel upon departure.

He is the third American currently held in North Korea.

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In April, North Korea said it had detained a 24-year-old American for improper behavior while he was being processed to enter the country as a tourist. He was identified as Miller Matthew Todd, possibly putting his surname first. It said he entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. The brief report said he chose North Korea "as a shelter."

North Korea has been holding a Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae since November 2012. Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what the North says were hostile acts against the state.

Last year, American tourist Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, was held for a month as he tried to leave North Korea after a visit. North Korean finally let Newman leave after the American apologized for training and advising a U.S.-led North Korean partisan unit during the Korean War.

Newman, of Palo Alto, Calif., was pulled from a plane Oct. 26 while preparing to leave the communist nation after a 10-day tour. Newman, a former finance executive, has a heart condition and his family had been worried about his health since he was detained while trying to leave the country on a tourist visa.

North Korea has been pushing to promote tourism as part of efforts to earn badly needed foreign currency, but the country is also extremely sensitive about how visitors act while in the country.

Today's announcement came as tension on the Korean Peninsula remains high with North Korea keeping up rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea following its series of missile and rocket launches earlier this year. The North's state media have also unleashed racist and sexist slurs against U.S. and South Korean leaders.

The peninsula is still in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.

The U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, but Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, oversees consular issues for the United States there.

In March, North Korea deported an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity in the country after he apologized for anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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