State Department aware of reports of North Korea's latest detention of U.S. citizen

Michelle Jung, May 8, 2017, 9:26 a.m.


WASHINGTON/SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- The State Department said it is aware of reports that yet another American citizen has been detained in North Korea.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said earlier Sunday that the country has detained a Korean-American man, identified as Kim Hak-song, on suspicions of unspecified "hostile acts." His detention raised the number of U.S. citizens held in the reclusive state to four.

"We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency on Sunday.

The security of U.S. citizens is one of the Department’s highest priorities. When a U.S. citizen is reported to be detained in North Korea, we work with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which serves as the United States' protecting power in North Korea. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment," the official said.

The KCNA said Kim had worked for Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

Last week, the North announced that another American citizen, Kim Sang-dok, who taught at the same university, was arrested on April 22 for "committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn" the country.

The other detainees are college student Otto Warmbier and Kim Dong-chul, a 63-year-old Korean-American.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner from a Pyongyang hotel, while Kim was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on charges of espionage and subversion.

South Korea's unification ministry said Monday that it is verifying information about North Korea's latest detainment of another U.S. citizen.

"As the detainee is not a South Korean national, we are not able to know (the incident's) details," Lee Duk-haeng, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "But the government will check the information via cooperation with relevant countries."

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