A US citizen engaged in relief efforts in Pyongyang has been detained attempting to leave North Korea, the third American to be arrested recently.
Tony Kim, who also goes by the Korean name of Kim Sang-duc, was arrested on Saturday at Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport as he was preparing to depart from North Korea, following a month-long working visit.
The professor, in his mid-50s, formerly taught accounting at China’s Yanbian University of Science and Technology, just north of the North Korea/China border. While in North Korea, Kim had been involved in an undisclosed form of relief activity, according to Stripes.com. Pyongyang has made no official statement regarding the reason for the arrest.
According to Ahn Chan-il, the director of the World North Korea Research Center in Seoul, South Korea, Pyongyang “seems to be intending to use professor Kim as leverage in negotiations.”
North and South Korea are currently at rigid diplomatic odds with each other. Seoul’s National Intelligence Service said in a statement that it “was not aware” of the professor’s arrest.
The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, acting on behalf of the United States in diplomatic relations with North Korea, stated that it was aware of the arrest but could not provide further details.