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Updated: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, June 7, 2014 | Posted: 12:33 p.m. Friday, June 6, 2014

West Carrollton man detained in North Korea over Bible

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By Breaking News Staff

An American tourist from West Carrollton left a Bible in a North Korean hotel room.

Now, Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, is a captive of North Korea, where he is under investigation for unspecified illegal acts, the country announced Friday.

The father of three who works for the city of Moraine was just visiting the country as a tourist and was not on a church mission trip, according to an attorney speaking on behalf of the Fowle family.

The New York Times reported Friday that Fowle entered North Korea on April 29. He was detained in mid-May after North Korean authorities say he "perpetrated activities that violated the laws of our republic, which did not fit his stated purpose of visiting our republic as a tourist," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said. "Our related agency has detained him and is investigating him."

Moraine City Manager David Hicks said Fowle is a longtime city employee who works for the city's street department. Hicks said he and other city officials have agreed to not comment on the issue at the request of the family's legal counsel.

Fowle is now the third American citizen being held in North Korea.

Despite encouraging tourism, the communist country is touchy about what visitors do, said Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation.

"They feel threatened by any outside contagion, any risk to the stability of the regime. And they see religious proselytizing as a very real risk for some reason," he said.

Jeff Seidel contacted News Center 7 to say he recently talked to Fowle's wife.

"She tried to tell him not to go because it was too dangerous and something might happen, and he didn't listen to her and he went ahead and went anyway," he said.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner both say they're concerned, and are watching the detainment closely. Also, the State Department has said it is working to bring Fowle home.

The Fowle family's attorney said the family, who attends church in Lebanon, will be making statements on Monday, but that they need a couple days to process what's happened.

The Times report Fowle's detention came against a backdrop of resiliently high tensions between North Korea and the United States, along with rising interest in North Korea as a tourist destination. A number of tour operators, mainly in China but at least one in the United States, offer organized visits to the country, one of the world's most ostracized and opaque societies.

American tourist interest has increased despite warnings by the United States government that no Americans should travel to the North, following the arrest last year of an American tourist, Merrill E. Newman of Palo Alto, Calif. Newman was released after more than a month of captivity. The North had accused him of war crimes after learning that Newman, a Korean War veteran, had helped train anti-communist guerrillas during the war. But it cited Newman's age, 85 at the time, as a reason for releasing him.

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