SEOUL: North Korea detained a US citizen on Friday as he attempted to leave the country, bringing the total number of Americans held by the isolated country to three.
Korean-American Tony Kim had spent a month teaching an accounting course at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the university’s chancellor, Chan-Mo Park, told Reuters on Sunday.
Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk and is in his fifties, was detained by North Korean officials at Pyongyang International Airport as he attempted to leave the country, Park said.
“The cause of his arrest is not known but some officials at PUST told me his arrest was not related to his work at PUST. He had been involved with some other activities outside PUST such as helping an orphanage,” Park said.
“I sincerely hope and pray that he will be released soon”.
An official at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said it was not aware of the reported arrest.
In Washington, the State Department said it was aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea but had no further comment because of privacy considerations.
Kim is listed as an accounting professor on the website of PUST’s sister institution in neighboring China, the Yanbian University of Science and Technology (YUST). Calls to YUST were not answered.
PUST was founded by evangelical Christians and opened in 2010, with students generally the children of the country’s elite. Its volunteer faculty, many of whom are evangelical Christians, has a curriculum that includes subjects once considered taboo in North Korea, such as capitalism.