On October 21, 2014, Jeffrey Fowle, an American, was released from a North Korean prison where he was held for leaving a Bible at a club for foreign sailors. In an interview earlier this year he said that his "charges are violations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) law, which stems from me trying to leave a Bible." During the CNN interview with Will Ripley, Fowle expressed concern for his wife and three young children.
As we celebrate the release of Jeffrey Fowle, we remain deeply concerned for Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, the two other Americans still in prison in North Korea.
November 3, 2014 will mark the second year of imprisonment for Kenneth Bae. He is the American held for the longest time in prison in North Korea in recent memory. Kenneth has publicly admitted his guilt to the crimes outlined by North Korean laws. He suffers from severe back pain, heart problems, and other health issues. Reports indicate that his time in prison with hard labor has only made his health situation worse.
Kenneth Bae is a family man. He has a wife and children. He has a sister, parents, and nieces who miss him and are seeking for his release. They continue to pray and seek hope in God that his release will come sooner than later.
Matthew Miller was sentenced in September 2014 to six years of hard labor. It is reported that when he entered the country, he tore up his tourist visa and requested political asylum. CNN reports that the North Koreans described him as an agitator who wished to demonstrate how the DPRK violated human rights. He was convicted of committing "acts hostile to the DPRK."
Our world is troubled with tensions, problems and conflicts. During such troubled times, it is good to show compassion and forgiveness and make this world a better, more peaceful place. North Korea has the capacity to show mercy and compassion by demonstrating leniency and releasing the two Americans they still hold in prison. North Korea's decision to release Fowle was a special dispensation granted by Kim Jong Un.
As tensions persist between the United States and North Korea on the divided Korean peninsula, it is important that both countries take steps to resolve this conflict and work towards peacemaking, cooperation and friendship. Even though tensions run high, we continue in our hopes for resolutions.
Vietnam was unified on July 2, 1976. The wall that separated East and West Germany came crumbling down almost exactly 25 years ago (November 9, 1989). So, South Korea and North Korea remains the only divided country in the world. However, like Vietnam and Germany, Korea can also become a unified country. As Korean families were torn apart when the peninsula was divided, it is possible that Korean families can be reunited through creative and courageous peacemaking.
There have been glimmers of hope recently as DPRK leaders have shown their desire to engage in dialogue with other nations. Three high officials from North Korea visited South Korea on October 4, 2014. This is the first high-level visit in five years.
In hope, we believe that North Korea, who has released Jeffrey Fowle, will also release Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. In this light, we hope and pray that they will broaden their sense of fairness towards Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and against any other outsiders captured and held on political grounds. It is very difficult for these two men's families to endure the hardship of not being able to stay in touch with their loved ones.
As Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller continue to stay in an isolated labor camp in North Korea, we hold onto the hope that their release will occur sooner rather than later (while appreciating the fact that unlike us, the North Koreans may see differences in these two cases and release one, but not the other). We remain steadfast, living always in hope in this challenging time for Bae and Miller.
It is always in hope that we live during dark days in our own lives.