Originally Posted by markojp
They kidnapped Japanese nationals... No ransome, no nothing... Used them to teach Japanese to their spy agency and military special ops. Of course neither N or S Korea has much love for their island neighbors.
That is an accurate answer. However before his death, Kim Jong Il actually did acknowledge and (kind of) apologize for the Japanese kidnappings. (This actually raised more questions than it answered though.)
North Korea has since abandoned its practice of kidnapping foreigners. Travel to the DPRK for foreigners with organized tour groups who get you your visas and proper paperwork is entirely safe though.
Now, at the risk of sounding like an apologist for the North Korean government, which I am not, let me make a quick comment about Kenneth Bae; Mr. Bae was not a tour operator. As one of the major three operators I can tell you none of us had ever heard of his operation. He was a Christian missionary who used tours as a cover for organizing foreign nationals to come into DPRK for the purpose of spreading Christianity, with the explicit intent to destabilize the regime. (His so-called "Operation Jericho.")
If a foreigner came into the United States with the intent and video-recorded plan to overthrow the government what do you think we would do to him?
Aside from Mr. Bae, the only Westerners to have been arrested by the DPRK authorities in the past several years have been detained for entering the country illegally and without proper visas or documentation. If you break the laws of a foreign country while in that country, you should expect to be prosecuted.
But one final note, and this is very important. The government of the DPRK is well-known for its politics and behavior. But just as there is a culture in the United States that is independent from the trappings of the government, North Korea is a country of 25 million people, with its own unique culture, customs, and social trends, completely independent and unrelated to the state. There is even a growing middle class in the country, not 10,000 well-to-do elites, but 3-4 million North Koreans with disposable income. There is so much more to the DPRK than just the state itself, something I think is under-appreciated by the outside world, and I think that having the outside world acknowledge, study, and support that culture is the best thing ever for the development of the North Korean people.