Why Did North Korea Suddenly Release 2 Americans?

by
Lauren Burgoon
North Korea and the west show all the signs of a classic abusive relationship.

We all have someone like North Korea in our lives. They are dramatic, with a hair-trigger temper and penchant for the ostentatious. You're never quite sure what they're going to do next – and they love keeping you on your toes.

North Korea did it again this week when the reclusive dictatorship suddenly released the last two Americans in custody, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. The men touched down on U.S. soil late Nov. 8, back home after being held in North Korea for two years and seven months, respectively. 

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It's right to celebrate Bae and Miller's return after both were held on trumped up charges and sentenced to years of hard labor in North Korea's infamously tortuous prison camps.

But we can't deny the truth: North Korea often has the west wrapped around its hermit finger. 

When Kim Jong Un disappears for weeks, the news is filled with ever-more ridiculous theories (gout! diabetes! a coup!) for his absence. Rumors and ill-formed opinions fly, only to have Kim reappear, all smiles, to plenty of western press coverage – and little mention of or movement on his regime's barbaric cruelty.

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It's like being in an abusive relationship. North Korea gives absolutely nothing, but when it demands, the west jumps. That's how Bae and Miller's release started.

North Korea authorities demanded, and got, an audience with U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in Pyongyang. Clapper took a letter from President Obama with him.

And still, it's not clear why North Korea suddenly decided to release Bae and Miller. 

"There may be a number of reasons why North Korea may have released the two Americans now," Joel Wit, a former State Department official, theorized to CNN.

"These people were put in jail for a certain amount of time, and now they can be released," he explained, guessing that North Korea made the move simply because it could, not for any opening salvo of talks.

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Maybe North Korea is trying to sway public opinion, after a scathing United Nations report on the country's cruelty and human rights violations. 

Maybe it's a gesture to reopen talks with South Korea.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. We just never know with North Korea. Maybe it's time to stop paying attention to anything North Korean officials do until the international community destroys them over their gross human rights abuses.