East Tennessee Times
Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 12:02 PM
Parents Of American College Student Believe North Korea Kidnapped Son From China In 2004, Want Him Back
The parents of an American college student
who disappeared in China in 2004 said they are convinced their son was
kidnapped by the North Korean regime to teach English and is alive
inside the Hermit Kingdom -- citing a plethora of circumstantial
evidence collected over the years indicating an abduction.
David Sneddon, a 24-year-old student at Brigham Young University, was last seen in August 2004 hiking through China's Yunnan Province. His parents, as well as sources inside Japan and South Korea, believe Sneddon -- a devout Mormon fluent in Korean who would be 37 now -- was kidnapped by North Korean agents to serve as an English tutor, possibly to Kim Jong Un, the nationís dictator.
"We want him home," Sneddon's mother, Kathleen, told Fox News this week.
"David was taken for a purpose, to help with English," Sneddon and husband Roy said Monday from their home in Logan, Utah. "We will never stop looking for him."
The family's comments come shortly after the death of Otto Warmbier, another American college student.
Warmbier was released by North Korea after more than a year in captivity, accused of stealing a propaganda poster. He was serving a sentence of hard labor. He was let go on June 12 and flown to the U.S. in a vegetative state. Warmbier died days later at a Cincinnati hospital.
The Chinese government claims Sneddon -- an experienced traveler who had served as a missionary in South Korea -- plunged to his death while backpacking through Tiger Leaping Gorge and drowned. But Sneddon's body was never found and his family members -- several of whom retraced his footsteps -- do not believe China's explanation.
"There's no evidence of that Ė zero," said Kathleen Sneddon, noting her son is the "only American missing in China since World II whose body has not been found and whose whereabouts remain unknown."
David's the 'only American missing in China since World II whose body has not been found and whose whereabouts remain unknown.'
- Kathleen Sneddon, David's mother
When Sneddon failed to meet his brother days later in Seoul, South Korea, his family immediately contacted the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. An official there told Kathleen Sneddon, "You canít lose an American in China," and dismissed her concerns, she said.
Skeptical of the Chinese police reports, Roy Sneddon and his two other sons flew to China in September 2004 and walked the very trail David had hiked. Along the way, the three showed David's photo to the locals, many of whom recalled seeing a young man matching his description.
One tour guide said he had walked the entire gorge with Sneddon until they reached a youth hostel at the end of the hike called Tina's Guesthouse -- indicating Sneddon made it across alive.
"We spoke to the youth hostel and found out David successfully traversed the gorge," Roy Sneddon said.
As the Sneddons continued their trek, they encountered more people at guest homes and shops well beyond the gorge who recalled in great detail meeting David. Roy Sneddon also told Fox News he and his sons did not consider the hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge a dangerous one.
"It was nothing difficult," he said. "It was no big deal compared to the areas of Wyoming we had backpacked through as a family."
The search for David took the family to the small tourist city of Shangri-La -- not far from Tiger Leaping Gorge -- where a cafe owner said she met David, describing his appearance and what food he liked to eat. Then the trail grew cold.
The family said they turned over their findings to the U.S. State Department, but officials there deferred to the Chinese police theory of a drowning.
Information that Sneddon was kidnapped by North Korea would trickle in to the family over the years, eventually building to an "overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence" the Sneddons and others say cannot be ignored.
Melanie Kirkpatrick, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and an expert on North Korea, said the region of China where David was last seen is a known route for the underground railroad -- a pathway used by North Koreans to flee the country.
EAST TN TIMES
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