An American Was Just Arrested for Seeking Asylum in the Country You'd Never Expect

An American Was Just Arrested for Seeking Asylum in the Country You'd Never Expect

The news: First it was Julian Assange holing up in an Ecuadorian embassy, then Edward Snowden jetting off to Russia. Now we have the latest in a string of unlikely asylum requests: North Korea.

On Friday, the official North Korean news agency announced that a 24-year-old American man was arrested in Pyongyang for improper conduct. The man, identified as Miller Matthew Todd, reportedly entered the country with a tourist visa but tore it up once he got through customs. "I want asylum in North Korea — I want North Korea to be my shelter," he said, according to KCNA.

Timing, timing, timing: North Korea isn't exactly happy about this, announcing that authorities are investigating Todd's "gross violation" of law. But how long does this investigation take? Surely they should be almost done ... considering the fact that Todd's attempted defection actually took place two weeks ago.

That's right. According to KCNA's own reporting, the entire fiasco took place on April 10. The government simply chose to wait for an opportune moment to make the announcement, and decided on Friday, the same day as President Barack Obama's state visit to South Korea. But we're sure that's probably just a coincidence.

Calling for greater sanctions and international pressure against Kim Jong-un's regime, Obama called North Korea "the most isolated country in the world." In response, North Korea told an "eggs on your face" story from two weeks ago.

What happens next? Given that the North Korean government controls the country's information output, it's hard to determine the facts of the case. We don't know if Todd is a whistleblower like Assange and Snowden, or just some dude who likes Kim's haircut. Regardless, the U.S. government is not likely to comment until it has a better sense of what actually happened.

In recent months, North Korea has made a spectacle out of detaining and releasing foreign visitors. In December, an 85-year-old American veteran of the Korean War was released after authorities forced him to make an apology video for fighting against the North. In March, a 75-year-old Australian missionary was also released after confessing to religious activities against the state.

And the most high-profile detainee, a Korean American missionary named Kenneth Bae, still remains in custody after being arrested in 2012. Given all these misunderstandings, maybe it's time for Ambassador Rodman to return to his post.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

MORE FROM

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.