The government of North Korea announced on Saturday that it had detained an American citizen for ‘hostile acts’ against the regime.
Reported by the secluded country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, few details were released about the arrest of Kim Hak-song.
Hak-song is described by the dictatorship as “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology” but did not elaborate on his position or alleged crime.
According to CNN, Hak-song is the second U.S. professor to be detained while working at or on behalf of Pyongyang University. The school issued a statement saying that Hak-song had been collaborating with the institution on ‘agricultural development work.’
The U.S. State Department said it was aware that an American citizen had been arrested by the regime of Kim Jong-Un and was planning to liaise with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
The United States does not maintain a consulate or embassy in North Korea, given the recent and historical tensions between the two nations.
Reuters referred to an online post made by Hak-song, in which the professor described himself as a Christian missionary hoping to start an experimental farm at Pyongyang University, itself founded by a Korean-American entrepreneur.
Three other American citizens are currently held by North Korea, including 22-year old student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, who had been visiting the Hermit Kingdom on a tourist visa, had tried to steal several propaganda items from a hotel to take home as souvenirs. He was recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by the North Korean government.
Although no specific charges have been detailed against Hak-song yet, it is not unlikely that he’ll face a fate similar to that of Warmbier. Other Korean-American missionaries have been sentenced to forced labor for purportedly committing or conspiring to commit crimes against the state.
An acquaintance of Hak-song said of the professor, “Professor Kim was a man who would call North Korea as his own country. He went to Pyongyang to devote himself to the development of North Korea’s agricultural technology so the North can be self-sufficient with food.”
The acquaintance, David Kim, is a former classmate of Kim Hak-song.
“He was a very diligent, hardworking man determined to help people in North Korea,” Kim said.
“North Korea is persecuting their savior, a person who came to help them. This is wrong,” said David Lee, another former classmate of Kim Hak-song.
The North Korean news agency which announced the arrest said that a “relevant institution” was “conducting a detailed investigation” of Hak-song’s supposed crimes.