American Tourist in Custody in North Korea and Claims of Seeking Asylum

American Tourist in Custody in North Korea and Claims of Seeking Asylum
April 25, 2014

UPDATE - 1 July 2014

The KCNA has reported that the DPRK is preparing to bring two American tourists, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, to trial for certain charges. As we have informed the public, Matthew Todd Miller was a private tourist on one of our tours and the circumstances surrounding his detention is outlined below.

As of last month, we believed Mr. Miller was in good health, and we have not heard otherwise. In addition, Mr. Miller’s family has reached out to us. However, they have requested that we keep the details of our communications private. We have no other specific updates at this time.

Jeffrey Edward Fowle was not one of our tourists, and we have no information on the circumstances of his detention.

Regarding how these recent detentions affect travel to the DPRK, safety is our highest priority and we continue to take all necessary precautions in running our tours. However, we believe that Mr. Miller’s detention is a rare and isolated occurrence, and we continue to operate our tours at this time. We have since had several tours in the country and all of our tourists (many Americans included) have returned home safely.

For your reference, we paste the full excerpt from the KCNA article below:

Pyongyang, June 30 (KCNA)—The Korean Central News Agency made public the following report on Monday:
  The relevant organ of the DPRK has made investigation into American tourists Miller Matthew Todd and Jeffrey Edward Fowle who were detained while perpetrating hostile acts after entering the territory of the DPRK.
  According to the results of the investigation, suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies.
  The relevant organ of the DPRK is carrying on the investigation into them and making preparations for bringing them before court on the basis of the already confirmed charges.
  Contact with an official looking after consular affairs, treatment, etc. in the course of investigation are being made in line with the laws of the relevant country. -0-


UPDATE - 27 April 2014

During the past week, we have received a number of questions regarding Matthew Miller from concerned citizens as well as the press. We have prepared the following FAQ in order to provide a bit more clarity to the public regarding Mr. Miller’s situation.

What is the traveler’s full name?  There are conflicting versions being published.
The name he provided on his tour application is Matthew Todd Miller.

Have you talked with any of his family members?
As required for all of our travelers, Mr. Miller provided an emergency contact. We have tried repeatedly to reach out to Mr. Miller’s emergency contact, but that person has not yet responded. Mr. Miller did not provide any family contact information on his tour application, nor has any family member reached out to us. We are in contact with the U.S. State Department and are doing everything we can to contact Mr. Miller’s family.

Was Mr. Miller traveling as part of a tour group?
Mr. Miller was a private tour client and was not traveling with any other people. Our private tour clients may elect to travel with local guides only or to have an Uri Tours guide accompany them as well. Mr. Miller, like most of our private tour clients, requested to travel with local guides only. It is actually quite common for tourists to travel in this manner. Our Beijing staff received him in Beijing and saw him off to Pyongyang.

Separately, we did host a large group of runners for the Pyongyang Marathon. All of our marathoners had a great time and have safely returned to their respective home countries.

What happened once Mr. Miller arrived in Pyongyang?
We had staff in Pyongyang at the time Mr. Miller arrived. However, as mentioned, Mr. Miller elected not to travel with Uri Tours staff but instead with local North Korean guides only. Our local partners informed us immediately following the incident that Mr. Miller had deliberately ripped his visa and had declared that he was “not a tourist.” Since that time, we have been working with the appropriate diplomatic, governmental and local agencies to resolve the situation.

Is he seeking asylum?
We cannot speak to Mr. Miller’s motivations or mental state. He did not express any special intentions in his tour application.

What is the reaction of North Korea to Mr. Miller’s detention?
Locally, we work with one of several tour companies that compete for foreign tour business in the DPRK. Our local partners informed us immediately of the situation with Mr. Miller and have expressed a great deal of concern.

How does this affect tourists going forward?
The safety of our tourists is and always has been our highest priority.  While we can’t speak to Mr. Miller’s motivations or the motivations of the DPRK, we are doing everything we can to resolve the situation.

In more than 10 years of operation we have never before had an incident concerning the safety of our travelers. We provide all of our travelers in advance with comprehensive information about traveling safely in the DPRK, including information on acceptable behavior in the country and citations to the appropriate State Department travel warnings. We believe that if tourists follow these guidelines, DPRK travel is very safe. We are continuing to operate at this time.


Matthew Miller, who is in custody in the DPRK on claims of seeking asylum, was a traveler on one of our private tours. We have been working closely and continuously with all relevant government and diplomatic entities to resolve this matter in a speedy and favorable manner. We are doing all we can to assist Mr. Miller through this process. 

In order to maintain the confidentiality of Mr. Miller and his family, we are not speaking with the press regarding the facts of the case.