Wed | Sep 20, 2017

NKorea detains US citizen, the 3rd American being held there

Published:Monday | April 24, 2017 | 4:00 AM
In this combination of file photos, U.S. citizens Otto Warmbier on March 16, 2016, left, and Kim Dong Chul on April 29, 2016; are escorted at court in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has detained U.S. citizen, Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, officials said yesterday, bringing to three the number of Americans now being held there. (AP Photo/Files)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP):

North Korea has detained a United States citizen, officials said yesterday, bringing to three the number of Americans now being held there.

Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained on Saturday, according to Park Chan-mo, the chancellor of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Park said Kim, who is 58, taught accounting at the university for about a month. He said that Kim was detained by officials as he was trying to leave the country from Pyongyang's international airport. A university spokesman said that he was trying to leave with his wife on a flight to China.

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang said that it was aware of a Korean-American citizen being detained recently but could not comment further. The embassy looks after consular affairs for the United States in North Korea because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

PRIVACY CONSIDERATIONS

The State Department said that it was aware of the report about a US citizen being detained, but declined further comment "due to privacy considerations".

Park said that Kim had taught at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China before coming to Pyongyang. He said that he was informed that the detention had "nothing to do" with Kim's work at the university but did not know further details.

As of last night, North Korea's official media had not reported on the detention.

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is the only privately funded university in North Korea. It held its first classes in 2010. It is unique in the North for its large number of foreign staff.

Colin McCulloch, the director of external affairs, said that the university was not under investigation and was continuing its normal operations. He said that he could not immediately confirm Kim's hometown.

Though no details on why Kim was detained have been released, the detention comes at a time of unusually heightened tensions between the US and North Korea. Both countries have recently been trading threats of war, and having another American in jail is likely to up the ante even further.