June 24, 2017

North Korea takes another American hostage

20 May 2017, 12:02 | Taylor George

North Korea detained an American professor over the weekend on charges of committing "hostile acts" against the regime, state-run media reported Sunday.

According to the North's official media, a third USA citizen, Kim Sang Dok, who was associated with the same school, was detained in late April for hostile acts.

In a vague text message to journalists Tuesday, South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the report from the Japan Times was "known to either be a matter that the USA could not confirm, or not true".

An ethnic Korean born in China in 1963, Kim studied agriculture at a Chinese university, then studied theology in Los Angeles between 1995 and 2005.

Washington is aware of the detentions. "When a USA citizen is reported to be detained in North Korea, we work with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang" to try to secure their freedom.

The arrest of Kim Hak-Song means that the North now is holding four United States citizens, with the two countries at loggerheads over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile ambitions.

'The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by USA citizens to North Korea, ' the official added.

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"It would be stating the obvious to say Pyongyang uses USA detainees as pawns against Washington", Lee told The Japan Times.

It was not immediately clear whether North Korea was deliberately targeting the elite university, but the arrests follow weeks of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, fueled by North Korea's missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and statements by U.S. President Donald Trump. On April 22, DPRK authorities detained another PUST faculty member, a professor of marketing and accounting named Tony Kim, who is also accused of "criminal acts of hostility".

North Korean officials began informal talks with a group of American experts in Oslo, Norway, amid speculation that Washington may seek dialogue with Pyongyang, diplomatic sources said Tuesday. They described Kim as being committed to improving North Korea's agricultural economy.

It noted that during public ceremonial events in Pyongyang marking the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-Sung, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and South Korea's intelligence services had attempted to poison Kim with "biochemical substances". The 62-year-old naturalized US citizen, who has been held since October 2015, was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.

In January previous year, North Korea also arrested Otto Warmbier, a USA college student who had traveled to the country as a tourist.

On Friday, North Korean officials announced the launch of a campaign to root out suspected foreign agents, after Pyongyang made dramatic, unsubstantiated claims to have foiled a CIA-backed plot to assassinate supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

On January 2, 2016, as he was departing through Pyongyang's airport, he was detained.

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