Did North Korea Kidnap an American Hiker ?

A recent (May 18, 2014) article in the magazine Outside – on line written by free-lance author Chris Vogel asks this open question.  All its supporting evidence is reviewed, summarized, and examined in depth.



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Was David Abducted by DPRK? You Decide …

An Unwitting Target – David, a Brigham Young University student, served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seoul, Korea prior to his disappearance while in Shangri-la, Yunnan, PRC.  He was also employed at the time by  MultiLing, an international language translation firm based in Provo, Utah, U.S.A.  The previous summer David worked for MultiLing in Seoul doing research to prepare for MultiLing’s future Seoul Korea office.

While completing his study of Mandarin in Beijing, PRC during the summer of 2004 he briefly taught Korean language to children of a Chinese family.  A former Seoul missionary companion also stayed with David in Beijing for 3-5 days awaiting a return flight to the U.S.A.

The former companion, then a student at Duke University,  was studying the problems of refugees exiting from North Korea into northern China.  He was asked to leave PRC after requesting a visa to go into DPRK.  Did these associations make David suspect?  David’s family think that they did.  Their thesis is that these associations suggested to the PRC and DPRK that David was participating in the underground railroad moving North Korean refugees across China.  Others have suggested a far more sinister motive, namely, state sponsored abduction for geo-political purposes including espionage. Does David’s disappearance fit the DPRK’s known pattern of abduction [Summary of Events Surrounding David Sneddon’s Disappearance ] ?

Is there evidence of David’s abduction in Yunnan, PRC ? – A report from a Japanese group, The Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, was presented to Deputy Secretary Nides of the US State Department during their visit to Washington D.C. [ American-Abducted-Too].  The Japanese association received the report from a trusted Chinese source in the PRC.  This Japanese report [Chinese Informant Reports Abduction of an American] parallels in many respects the information known and surmised about David’s disappearance.

The Voice of America broadcasting into Pyongyang, DPRK from Seoul, Korea expressed this same question in a piece produced by Steve Herman and aired May 11, 2012 [Voice of America Broadcast into N.K. May 11, 2012].

What was the official reaction of  DPRK to allegations of their abduction of an American citizen? – As a reader of the English translation of DPRK’s florid denials originally expressed in Korean, you may be surprised [DPRK-Respone-to-Claim-of-Abduction ].  Such language brings to mind an American expression originated by sportsmen hunting game birds such as quail, pheasants, and ducks, namely, “Hit birds flutter”.

Was David abducted by agents of the DPRK with complicity by Chinese local police in Yunnan? – For the present, you must be the judge!  The Sneddon family believes that David was abducted by agents working for the DPRK. 

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Latest News on David

Report from Roy and Kathleen Sneddon December 2005
Sent: Saturday, October 08, 2005 11:55 AM

The Roy Sneddon family traveled to China in September 2005 in our continual efforts to bring David home. We did not expect to locate him during this visit, nor to bring him home; however, our plan was to soften the hearts and open the minds of the local officials in an effort to rekindle the urgency to find David. That was our goal, and we feel that in it we were highly successful. Unexpectedly, we were able to meet with high government officials from both the U.S. and China. We are very grateful for the full cooperation and support from the American Embassy in China and the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Our family, Roy, Kathleen, and seven adult children (Michael, Jannene, James, Katherine, Cameron, Nathan and Jenny), spent nine days in China in our continuing search for David Sneddon. Through the efforts of the U.S. Embassy personnel in Beijing and those of the Consulate at Chengdu, we met with high level Chinese government officials in Zhongdian (Shangri-la) and Lijiang, Yunnan, PRC. In these meetings the siblings were able to share their thoughts and memories about David. For all in attendance, it was an emotional experience. Additionally, in Beijing we met with Ambassador Randt, and we had a lovely luncheon in Beijing with Yafei He, the Chinese Director General of Foreign Affairs for North America and Oceania. In each case we made friends for David’s cause and found people sharing common aspirations for their children. We provided a short document about David’s family written in Mandarin for each of the Chinese officials present at our meetings. You may view this as an attachment in English.

In our exit interview with Ambassador Randt we were able to express our gratitude for all the Embassy has done in David’s behalf. We reviewed with him our odyssey across China’s Yunnan Province, and what we feel was a productive meeting with Yafei He. The Ambassador was most gracious, considerate, and interested in our situation. The Embassy and staff of American Citizens Services have gone beyond the “second mile” in their continuing efforts to help.

We feel that our family’s visit to China was significantly more productive and useful than we could have anticipated. In our meetings with the Chinese officials we were able to put a family face on David with his attendant father, mother, brothers, and sisters. Family was common ground with the Chinese officials. They could now empathize, and in many cases hearts were softened in our behalf. As a side note, we find it significant that we were served a lot of hot water, but no tea and in the formal lunch with Yefei He, ample fruit juice (non alcoholic) was available for the traditional Chinese toast.

We retraced the steps David had taken, where he ate and slept and often saw his face on a “missing person” poster. David loved to visit with the local Chinese in their villages. Thus this final comment: Instead of asking “Why did he go alone?”, David’s siblings now comment, “We know why he came here — the mountains, the villages and most important the people!”

Thanks again for your continual interest and prayers in our behalf.

Roy and Kathleen Sneddon

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