North Korea has detained a US citizen, officials said, 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, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology chancellor Park Chan-mo said.
Park said Kim, who is 58, taught accounting at the university for about a month.
He said Kim was detained by officials as he was trying to leave the country from Pyongyang’s international airport.
A university spokesman said he was trying to leave with his wife on a flight to China.
The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang on Sunday said it was aware of a Korean-American citizen being detained, but could not comment further.
The embassy looks after consular affairs for the US in North Korea because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
The US Department of State also said it was aware of the report about a US citizen being detained, but declined further comment “due to privacy considerations.”
Park said he was informed that the detention had “nothing to do” with Kim’s work at the university, but did not know further details.
Kim previously taught Korean at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in Yanji, China, not far from the North Korean border, said the school’s Chinese Communist Party Committee secretary, who would only give his surname, Huang.
Kim resigned in August last year and has not contacted the school since, Huang said.
“We don’t know anything about his trip to North Korea,” Huang said.
As of yesterday morning, North Korea’s official media had not reported 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 the university was not under investigation and was continuing its normal operations.
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.
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