Geum Yi

American detained in North Korea terminated from job

September 22, 2014
 Jeffrey Edward Fowle (AP)

Jeffrey Edward Fowle (AP)

(Yonhap) — An American man detained in North Korea for nearly five months has recently been terminated from his job with a city government in Ohio because of his prolonged absence.

The Moraine city government made the decision about Jeffrey Edward Fowle, saying in a letter to him and his family that it had to “act in the best interests of the city of Moraine and its residents,” according to the Dayton Daily News.

But the decision includes more than $70,000 in severance pay and the ability to be reinstated, it said.

Fowle, 56, who had worked for the city government for 25 years, entered the North in late April and has since been detained for leaving a Bible in a hotel. In media interviews, he has expressed concern about his family, saying his wife and three elementary school-aged children depend on him for support.

“We had hoped this action would not be necessary,” the city said in the Sept. 16 letter to him.

But the city had to make the decision in light of Fowle’s continued incarceration resulting from his “unilateral decision” to travel to the North against the advice of his family and the exhaustion of his vacation time, according to the letter.

Tim Tepe, the Fowle family’s lawyer, was quoted as saying the family understands the decision.

“They were obviously in a position where they had to do something, and the family understands that. There are certainly no hard feelings,” the lawyer was quoted as saying.

Fowle is one of three American citizens currently detained in the North.

The others are Matthew Todd Miller, who was sentenced to six years of hard labor earlier this month for committing “hostile” acts after entering the North in April, and Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary, who was detained in late 2012 and has since been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified anti-state crimes.

The U.S. has repeatedly urged the North to immediately release the three on humanitarian grounds, but the North has refused to do so. The widespread view is that Pyongyang is using the three as leverage to reopen negotiations with the U.S.