To the 25 million suffering people in North Korea, add one more: an American captive, David Sneddon.
Mr. Sneddon’s name turned up again this month in an extraordinary statement by a South Korean humanitarian organization as reported by Yahoo News Japan. The Abductees’ Family Union in Seoul said that it believes the American is alive and well and living in Pyongyang, where he has a North Korean wife and two children.
And here’s the bombshell: According to an informant of the Abductees’ Family Union, David was kidnapped in China 12 years ago for the express purpose of being forced to work as an English tutor to the children of dictator Kim Jong Il. His pupils included the current head of state, Kim Jong Un.
To those unfamiliar with the medieval practices of the Kim family regime, such a story would seem preposterous. Yet the modern-day nation of North Korea has a long history of kidnapping foreigners to serve the state.
In the 1970s and 1980s, North Korean agents infiltrated Japan and snatched Japanese citizens. Once in North Korea, the Japanese victims, who included a 14-year-old schoolgirl, were forced to teach Japanese language and customs to North Korean spies, who could then travel the world posing as Japanese nationals. In 2002 Kim Jong Il confessed to having kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, but Japan’s government believes many more were taken. The list of known abductees includes citizens of South Korea, China, Romania, Lebanon, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Macau.
Many kidnappings have taken place in China, whose government still allows Pyongyang’s agents to operate freely. Most of the victims are North Korean citizens who have fled to China. In 2000, Kim Dong-shik, minister of a church in the Chicago area, was kidnapped in China. Kim, who died in North Korean custody, was a citizen of South Korea and a permanent resident of the U.S.
On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling on the State Department and U.S. intelligence services to help find Mr. Sneddon. The resolution, which has been two years in the works, asks the State Department and the intelligence community to “consider all plausible explanations for David’s disappearance, including the possibility of abduction by the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The resolution now moves to the Senate.
The Abductees’ Family Union has a mixed record on its investigations of North Korean abductions. Some of the information it has uncovered has proved to be true, some not. The Sneddon family finds the new report about David plausible and wants the U.S. government to investigate. The House resolution should apply some useful pressure to a State Department that seems to have resisted the family’s prior entreaties.
The U.S. government has a duty to use all means at its disposal to locate a missing citizen and bring him home. Let’s hope that soon will include David Sneddon.