Society

Student Missing Since 2004 Was Kidnapped By North Korea

| by Sarah Zimmerman
David SneddonDavid Sneddon

Authorities may have answers on what happened to an American student who was reported missing during a 2004 hiking trip in China.

David Sneddon, a 24-year-old student at Brigham Young University mysteriously disappeared while hiking in China's Yunnan Province, according to the New York Daily Post. Chinese police chalked the incident up to a hiking accident, saying he likely fell to his death. But, David's body was never found and his parents never lost hope.

"We knew in our heart that he was alive, so we had to keep fighting," said his mother, Kathleen Sneddon.

Kathleen and her husband, Roy, have been tirelessly searching for their son, even going so far as to lead search parties in China and send petitions to Congress, according to CNN.

Their tireless work seems to have been rewarded, as David was found in North Korea, where he now works as a school teacher. The South Korean Abductees' Family Union reports he also is married with two children. 

David, who is fluent in Korean, tutored the then 20-year-old Kim Jong Un for years before settling down with a family. Kim rose to power as North Korea's leader in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

The American's family believes he was abducted by North Korean officials, publishing their reasoning on a website created to help bring their son home. Their working theory is that their son was mistakenly connected to an illegal underground railroad that helped North Korean refugees escape the country.

Not only that, but North Korean officials were allegedly looking for an English-speaking American tutor during that time frame. Only a month before David's alleged abduction, English tutor Charles Jenkins was permitted to leave North Korea, much to the dismay of government officials. With David's command of both English and Korean, he could have been the perfect target. 

U.S. officials say there is no evidence suggesting that David was abducted but they will monitor the situation carefully, according to CNN.

"The embassy in Beijing ... has been in regular, ongoing contact with the local authorities since David Sneddon was reported missing ... We continue to closely monitor this matter and we continue to raise it with Chinese authorities," said spokesman for the U.S. State Department John Kirby.

Sources: New York Post, CNN, Help Find David / Photo credit: Help Find David

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