Family of N. Korean detainee apologizes on his behalf

The plea to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea came Tuesday from the family of Jeff Fowle of West Carrollton. Fowle has been detained in North Korea since May 7.

An attorney for Fowle’s family issued a statement on behalf of the 56-year-old West Carrollton man’s wife and three children.

“The family would like to express its heartfelt apology to the people and the government of the DPRK,” attorney Tim Tepe said. “Jeff has apologized publicly for his actions and Jeffrey’s family petitions the government of the DPRK for mercy toward Jeffrey and asks for his release.”

In addition to Tuesday’s plea, former Dayton-area congressman Tony Hall, who traveled to North Korea while in Congress, said he is meeting meeting Wednesday with a top North Korean diplomat to discuss Fowle’s case.

Fowle is one of three U.S. citizens being held captive in North Korea. The Beavercreek High School graduate and a 25-year employee of the city of Moraine has been detained since May 7, Tepe said. Fowle went to North Korea because he likes to visit exotic places, Tepe said.

He is accused of “anti-state” crimes, reportedly for leaving a Bible in a hotel room after arriving in the country April 29. Tepe said Tuesday he could not confirm that as the reason Fowle is being detained.

The family has also written letters seeking aid to President Obama and three former presidents, Tepe said. Fowle’s wife Tatyana sought Obama’s support while the children – 13-year-old Alex, 11-year-old Chris and Stephanie, 9 – penned pleas to George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, he said.

Only Bush has responded, Tepe said.

The apology and the pleas from the family were sent after the family received a letter and phone call from Fowle, Tepe said. His trial date is approaching but has not been announced, Tepe said.

”They miss him and are desperate for his release and return home,” he said. “Jeff is the primary financial provider for their family, and Tatyana is struggling to manage by herself. Jeffrey has expressed concern that his job benefits may run out soon. The next few days are critical as we approach the trial date set for Jeffrey, and the family is urgently seeking assistance from our government leaders.”

Fowle has been on paid accumulative leave with Moraine since May, City Manager David Hicks said earlier this month. At that time, Fowle was interviewed by an Associated Press news crew on video, as was Matthew Todd Miller, who along with Kenneth Bae is also being held in North Korea. At that time, Fowle reported that his health was “good.”

The phone call and letter Fowle sent to his family came before the release of the video, Tepe said. The letter to the family expressed “how much he missed them and asked them to help him get released,” he said.

“The kids miss their dad and that’s the bottom line,” Tepe said. He said Tatyana Fowle has “had to be mom and dad the last three months.”

Tepe said the family also expressed thanks to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, as well as Hall, who said he became involved in the case at the request of Turner.

Hall said Tuesday he is in New York City, where he plans to meet with the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations. Hall said he has talked with the ambassador before, but has never met with him.

“I’m certainly going to express my concern for Jeff and the family,” he said. “And I want to get some understanding of where we are at in the process.”

Hall said because of the lack of relations between the two nations, New York is the only location in this country where U.S. officials can talk with representatives of North Korea.

The state department, meanwhile, said Tuesday it is working with Sweden, which handles consular matters for Americans in North Korea, on seeking the release of the three detainees.

The Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang visited Fowle June 20, and regularly requests consular access to all U.S. citizens in DPRK custody, according to an email from the state department.