DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Jeffrey Fowle, the Dayton-area man who spent six months as a detainee in North Korea, said he had mixed reactions to President Trump meeting with NK dictator Kim Jong Un on Saturday.
Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea.
Fowle, who was detained in 2014 for six months in North Korea for leaving a Bible in a public place, said he preferred the U.S. relationship with North Korea now to what it was a year ago, when the North Koreans test launched missiles over Japan.
“(Trump has) made more inroads than negotaiators have the last 30, 40 years,” Fowle said. “If they keep this personal relationship going, it’s better than spewing out threats of rockets and wars and that kind of thing. But it doesn’t seem to borne a lot of fruit so far.”
It’s heartbreaking what the population has gone through the last 70 years. It’s a continual terror state. It is Stalin on steroids.Jeffrey Fowle, former detainee in North korea
Fowle is one of two Southwest Ohioans to be held in North Korea in recent years. The other was college student Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati native, who was imprisoned in North Korea for a year.
He was released in 2017 in a vegetative state. He died a few days after returning to the United States.
Fowle has kept up on North Korean affairs since leaving the country. He’s kept track of the country’s politics and Kim Jong Un.
But his own personal experience of the country haunts him.
“It started with Un’s grandfather,” Fowle said. “It’s a populace kept under total control by being terroroized. It’s heartbreaking what the population has gone through the last 70 years. It’s a continual terror state It is Stalin on steroids.”
Fowle said he’s cautiously optimistic about progress being made, but doesn’t see North Korea ever shuttering its nuclear program.
“The nuclear position they are in now, it took them a long time,” Fowle said. “They see this as a golden key to international status and it gives them the green light to do what they want.”
But Fowle said some of the populace is being opened up to what’s happening outside of the country. Border country China used to be third-world status, but is now a world-leading economic power. DVD and other entertainment are often smuggled into the country from China and South Korea.
“They are getting more information over there now,” Fowle said. “The country is largely closed, but they know South Korea isn’t this little country, it’s a top 10 economy. It’s becoming more apparent North Korea isn’t a utopian paradise.”