An American man sentenced to six years of hard labor in North Korea described to the Associated Press his new life of isolation in the reclusive, communist state.
Matthew Miller spoke with reporters Thursday, the first day of his prison sentence after being convicted of “hostile” acts against the state.
Sporting a shaved head and gray prison clothes, Miller said he is forced to work eight hours a day digging fields, but that his health has not deteriorated.
“Prison life is eight hours of work per day. Mostly it’s been agriculture, like in the dirt, digging around. Other than that, it’s isolation, no contact with anyone. But I have been in good health, no sickness, no hurts,” said Miller.
Miller said he has pleaded for help in letters to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton.
North Korea is also holding two other Americans. It is believed to be seeking a high-level visit from a U.S. official to help secure their release.
The 25-year-old Miller was arrested in April after ripping up his visa at immigration and demanding asylum in North Korea. Pyongyang’s state media accused him of trying to secretly infiltrate North Korea’s prisons.
Another American, Jeffrey Fowle, entered the North as a tourist and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a provincial club. His trial is expected soon.
A third U.S. citizen, Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, is serving a 15-year sentence for what Pyongyang called “hostile acts” intended to overthrow the government.
Many analysts say Pyongyang uses the Americans as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs. North Korea denies this.
High-level U.S. visits are also valuable propaganda tools for the North Korean government, which portrays the U.S. leaders as paying their respects to the country’s authoritarian leaders.
The U.S. has tried to send a senior diplomatic envoy to secure Bae’s release, but Pyongyang canceled the visit. Some believe the North wants a higher level official to visit.