The United States State Department said it was aware of reports that another American had been detained in North Korea and would pursue the matter through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. A State Department official said the agency would have no further comment because of “privacy considerations.”
Since the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, Sweden serves as the “protecting power” for the American government and handles consular affairs when Americans are detained there.
On Wednesday, North Korea confirmed it was holding Kim Sang-duk, who also goes by his American name, Tony Kim, on charges of committing “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country.”
Tony Kim was detained at the airport in Pyongyang on April 22 while he was trying to leave the country. He had taught accounting for a month at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, according to Park Chan-mo, the university’s chancellor.
It remained unclear whether Kim Hak-song’s arrest was connected to Tony Kim’s. The latest arrests of American citizens come at a particularly tense moment in relations between the United States and North Korea.
As the North has conducted banned tests of ballistic missiles in recent weeks, the United States has dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to waters off the Korean Peninsula as a show of force.
The North has been accused of holding Americans on what many see as dubious charges in order to use them as diplomatic leverage. At least two other Americans are known to be held in the country.
Last year, North Korea sentenced an American college student, Otto F. Warmbier, to 15 years’ hard labor after accusing him of trying to steal a political banner from a hotel in Pyongyang. It later sentenced another American, Kim Dong-chul, to 10 years’ hard labor on charges of spying and…