Tue, May 09, 2017 - Page 1 News List

University confirms N Korea detained another US citizen

AFP, SEOUL

A foreign-funded university in North Korea yesterday confirmed the arrest of a US citizen — the second American linked to the school detained in two weeks amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The detention of Kim Hak-song means that North Korea is now holding four Americans, with the two countries at loggerheads over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

North Korea detained Kim on Saturday for “hostile acts,” the Korean Central News Agency said on Sunday, adding that he had worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).

The school — founded by evangelical Christians from overseas and opened in 2010 — is known to have a number of American faculty members.

The school confirmed Kim’s arrest, saying he was detained as he was about to leave the country after a visit of several weeks.

“During that visit, Mr Kim was at PUST to do agricultural development work with PUST’s experimental farm,” it said in a statement.

It did not comment on the reason for Kim’s arrest, but said it was “not connected in any way with the work of PUST.”

Two weeks ago the North arrested Tony Kim, a US citizen and professor of accounting who was lecturing at PUST, accusing him of trying to “overturn” the regime.

Little is known about Kim Hak-song, but his detention brought renewed attention to the school, known to teach many children of the country’s elite.

On its Web site, PUST says its mission is “to pursue excellence in education, with an international outlook, so that its students are diligent in studies, innovative in research and upright in character, bringing illumination to the Korean people and the world.”

Korean-American writer Suki Kim went to PUST undercover as an English teacher in 2011 and later wrote a book about her experiences.

“PUST offers a mutually beneficial arrangement for both North Korea and the evangelicals,” she wrote in an essay published in the Washington Post last month following Tony Kim’s detention.

“The regime gets free education for its youth and a modern facility ... while the evangelicals get a footing in the remote nation,” she said.

Pyongyang has carried out two nuclear tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to build a rocket capable of delivering an atomic warhead to the US mainland.

Washington has suggested military action could be on the table, but Trump has softened his message more recently, saying he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The four Americans held in North Korea also include college student Otto Warmbier and Korean-American pastor Kim Dong-chul, who received lengthy jail terms for “crimes against the state” and spying, respectively.

North Korea has occasionally jailed US citizens and released them only after visits by high-profile political figures including former US president Bill Clinton.

Clinton in 2009 flew to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of US television journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, jailed after wandering across to the North from China.

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