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North Korea Arrests American Citizen At Pyongyang Airport

REUTERS/Kyodo

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North Korea has reportedly detained another American citizen, according to South Korean reports.

A Korean-American professor identified as Tony Kim (Kim Sang-duk) was detained at Pyongyang International Airport recently, reports Yonhap News Agency. Kim, who worked at Yanbian University of Science and Technology, was working on aid and relief projects in the North. Kim spent one month in North Korea to sort out the details of the programs.

North Korean authorities grabbed him at the airport as he was preparing to return home. The reason for his arrest remains unclear, as reports of his detention have yet to be officially verified.

The Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which often serves as an informal intermediary between North Korea and other countries, said a Korean-American man was detained Friday. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, as well as the unification ministry, have yet to confirm the reports.

Since 2009, North Korea has arrested over 10 U.S. citizens for various crimes. If reports that North Korea has detained another American are accurate, Pyongyang is holding three American citizens.

Otto Frederick Warmbier, a former business student at the University of Virginia, and Kim Dong-chul, a pastor, are being held in detention in North Korea. Pyongyang detained the former for stealing a political poster. The latter was arrested on charges of espionage.

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Each was sentenced to over a decade of hard labor.

“The North Korean government regards the people who are trying to help North Koreans from the inside as a threat. This arrest could be an effort to increase their leverage in possible future negotiations,” BJ Kim,  professor of international studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, told Al Jazeera.

North Korea has taken Americans as leverage in the past. The arrest comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

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