U.S. tour programs to N. Korea unaffected by detention of American

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- Western tour agencies specializing in North Korean trips will go ahead with their tour programs as scheduled despite the communist country's recent detaining of an American tourist, a U.S. report said Tuesday.

North Korea announced last week that it has arrested Jeffrey Edward Fowle, a 56-year-old American from Ohio, for an unspecified crime. He entered the communist country as a tourist on April 29 on a program run by Uri Tours, a U.S.-based agency specializing in trips to the North.

Fowle became the third American man now detained by the North.

Despite the recent arrest, the American tour agency plans to continue its North Korea tour programs, including one scheduled for this weekend, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

The tour agency has not received any request to cancel travel plans to the North even after the news of Fowle's detention, the report said, citing the U.S. company.

About 10 to 20 people usually join Uri Tours' North Korea group travel program, and Miller Matthew Todd, another American man detained by the North in April, also entered the communist country through one of the firm's tour programs.

Travelers will face no safety risks if they keep to North Korea travel guidelines and recommendations, Uri Tours was quoted as saying.

RFA said another travel firm from the eastern part of the U.S., which deals with trips to North Korea, remained unaffected by the recent detention news.

Britain-based Lupine Travel, specializing in trips to the North, has also said that its U.S. client is reconsidering his previous travel plan for July, according to the report.

One more Korean-American man, Kenneth Bae, has been detained by the North since November 2012 on anti-state charges.

Pyongyang has since invited U.S. special envoy on North Korea human rights Robert King twice over Bae's possible release, but both of the invitations were called off abruptly.

North Korea has often used detained Americans as bargaining chips with the U.S., which has responded in the past by sending high-profile U.S. political figures, including former President Bill Clinton, to the North to win their release.

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