Last American Prisoners Freed From North Korea

by Nuzha Nuseibeh

Nearly a month after bible-leaver Jeffrey Fowle made it out of the DPRK and back onto U.S. soil, American citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller were released from North Korea Saturday, and are finally on their way home, too. Bae and Miller were the last two U.S. prisoners being held in the repressive country: Miller has spent almost six months in detention after being accused of "hostile acts;" while Bae has spent a horrifying two years serving a 15-year hard labor sentence in punishment for “crimes against the state."It's a long-awaited day for the two Americans: 45-year-old Bae, a missionary from Washington state, was arrested back in 2012 and charged one year later with “hostile acts to bring down [the North Korean] government.” He was sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean labor camp, where he's been forced to work eight hours a day, six days a week, in spite of his poor health.Miller, a 24-year-old from Bakersfield, California, has been in custody since April of this year, after he entered North Korea on a tourist visa and was detained for "unruly behavior." Later, he was charged with the murky crime of “hostile acts” against the country, and accused of visiting North Korea “under the guise” of being a tourist (whatever that means). Just two months ago, Miller was officially sentenced to six years of hard labor for his alleged crimes.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Now, according to the State Department, the two prisoners are finally on their way back to the U.S., accompanied by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Said spokesman Brian Hale in a statement:

We can confirm that U.S. citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been allowed to depart the DPRK and are on their way home, accompanied by DNI Clapper, to re-join their families. The United States government is facilitating their return to the United States.

He added:

We welcome the DPRK's decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller. We want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the Government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure their release.

The release is a major win for the U.S. government, as well: Washington has no direct diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, and instead has its consular issues managed by Sweden. Since 2009, it's had to deal with six other Americans being detained in North Korea. Now, finally, there are no more U.S. citizens being held prisoner in the DPRK, at least that we know.

Images: Getty Images