I first met Michael Spavor in 2010, long before he became a news headline and a political prisoner — and before he launched his intriguing journey into North Korea. 

I was a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, based in Seoul, and Michael, a Canadian expat living in my midst, was precisely the kind of character I wanted to get to know. 

Michael knew things about the Korean peninsula. He’d been around, knew how things worked. He was like a young scholar who is also fun to have beers with. I remember one time I visited his humble little house on some back street. The place was historically relevant in some way and Michael wanted to rebuild those parts to keep its integrity. He was doing all of this with his own money of course. 

That’s the kind of guy Michael Spavor is. There’s a swagger there, a sense of boundless adventure, but there’s also this innocence and empathy. I remember questioning, to myself, his trips to North Korea but I believe in Michael and supported him. This was Michael Spavor; he knew what he was doing. 

I still believe that. Along with pictures of Michael with the likes of Dennis Rodman, there are a million more pictures of Michael posing with common North Koreans.

Michael cared about people trapped in a country that has become a little more than a political jail. And now, I am sorry to see, my friend has himself ended up as a political pawn in the hands of the Chinese government. 

But I am positive that this chapter will soon come to an end and that he will be a free man again, and all those people who know and respect him will be applauding him once again. 

And buying him beers, many beers. 

For now, our mantra is: Free Michael Spavor!

John M. Glionna

Free Michael Spavor