Matthew Todd Miller is the American citizen who has been sentenced by North Korean courts to six years hard labor. He was charged for “hostile acts” against the country while he was tourist there. Here’s what you need to know.
1. He is From California
Miller is from Bakersfield, California and in his mid-20s.
He is a 2009 graduate of Bakersfield High School and has traveled to the Korean peninsula multiple times.
Miller traveled to South Korea in 2010 to visit one of his brothers, who was stationed at the time with the U.S. Air Force. Miller took a job teaching English, and learned some Korean in the process.
South Korea and North Korea have been separate countries since 1953. North Korea is under dictatorship rule, currently led by cult personality Kim Jong-un.
2. He was in North Korea as a Tourist
Miller entered North Korea as a tourist last April.
[Upon Miller’s arrival] he tore up his tourist visa and demanded Pyongyang grant him asylum, according to a release from state media at the time. He was traveling on a private trip without foreign guides, according to Uri Tours, the company that organized his trip.
Photos of the trial released by state media showed some of Miller’s personal possessions, including his passport, phone, notebook and North Korean visa – which appeared to be ripped.
The photo of the alleged ripped visa is above.
3. His Trial Took Place in Pyongyang
Miller’s trial took place in North Korean capital Pyongyang on Sunday morning, where he was found guilty of “hostile acts” against the country.
Earlier this month, North Korea allowed an interview with Miller to CNN, in which the Telegraph reports:
… he said that he had planned to “violate the law” before arriving in North Korea and had “deliberately” committed his “crime”, without specifying what exactly he had done.
He now faces six years at a hard labor camp.
4. Another American Man is Also Facing Trial
North Korea has yet to announce a trial date for a third U.S. citizen Jeffrey Fowle, 56, from Miamisburg, Ohio, who was arrested in May this year for leaving a bible under a bin in the toilet of a sailor’s club in the eastern port city of Chongjin.
Both Miller and Fowle are set to join U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae in North Korean confinement. Bae was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor in December 2012 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government and trying to evangelize the country with Christendom.
5. The U.S. Government has Called for Their Release
The U.S. State department has called for the release of all three men on humanitarian grounds.
The U.S State department has also accused North Korea of using the men as pawns for bargaining powers.
While the current dispute between the two countries has its roots in the Cold War, North Koreans cite that animosity between the country actually began in 1866 with the General Sherman incident.
The General Sherman incident was the destruction of an armed merchant marine side-wheel steamer that visited Korea in 1866. It was an important catalyst to the end of Korean isolationism in the 19th century. After passing the Keupsa Gate without permission from the Koreans, the United States merchant ship was attacked and fought over for several days before finally being destroyed.
The United States responded in 1971 with what Koreans call the Shinmiyangyo, where Americans stormed Ganghwa Island and in the ensuing battle killed around 200 Korean soldiers.
It’s worth noting that Ganghwa Island now resides in South Korea, which is one of America’s closest allies.