Monday North Korea said it plans to try two detained American tourists for so-called "hostile acts." But with one American already sentenced for similar reasons in May, why do tourists keep traveling to one of the most isolated countries in the world?
24-year-old Matthew Miller and 56-year-old Jeffrey Fowle were detained on separate occasions earlier this year. Miller is accused of tearing up his visa upon entering the country and demanding asylum, and Fowle had reportedly left a Bible in a hotel. (Via Fox News)
Freedom of religion in the repressive nation is strictly limited, as evidenced by the sentencing of Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been arrested and accused of trying to overthrow the North Korean government in 2012. (Via Arirang)
Tourism in North Korea is also controlled by the government, and anyone who wishes to travel to the secretive nation must do so through organized tours. Still, all tourists are expected to follow strict rules. (Via Euronews)
As CNN points out, those rules include a mandatory show of respect to past and present leaders by bowing in front of their statues. Wandering off from the tour group and talking to locals are also prohibited.
But the U.S. State Department strongly advises Americans against traveling there, saying Americans are especially in danger of being detained despite having lawful visas or remaining with tour guides.
Although the U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties with the country, North Korea has been known to release foreign detainees after securing written or videotaped confessions, such as that of Korean War veteran Merrill Newman in 2013. (Via KCNA)
And if the past is any indication, The Wall Street Journal points out the trials of Miller and Fowle could be signs of their impending releases, but there is no guarantee. The State Department warns past diplomatic efforts have not always been successful.
According to the BBC, North Korea has arrested Americans to use as bargaining chips before, but there's been no confirmation that's the case this time.
This week North Korea also condemned the upcoming U.S. comedy movie "The Interview" and threatened a "resolute and merciless" response against the U.S. should it be released. (Via Sony Pictures / "The Interview")
Further details about the trials and possible punishment for the two detained Americans have not been released.