On Saturday, North Korea announced that another U.S. citizen was detained after being accused of committing undefined hostile acts against the North. According to the Associated Press, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said over the weekend that Kim Hak Song was detained and that “a relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crimes.”
“North Korean leaders are deeply paranoid and thus are quick to crush any perceived threats to internal stability,” former U.S. Navy Commander and Pentagon spokesman J.D. Gordon told American Military News.
“Most U.S. citizens typically arrested by the regime are Korean-American Evangelicals, a sub-group which Pyongyang already views as potentially subversive,” Gordon added. “Once detained, they’ve been used by Kim Jong Un to portray Washington as weak while also serving to distract attention away from his nuclear and ballistic missile tests.”
The detaining of Kim Hak Song comes just days after the North announced the detaining of another U.S. citizen, Kim Song Dok, or Tony Kim, about two weeks ago while he waited to board a flight at Pyongyang airport. Both Americans worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, though KNCA did not report whether the two incidents were related.
“The best way to secure their release is through economic and diplomatic pressure via China,” Gordon continued. “That said, without eventual regime change in North Korea, we’ll likely see these type of arrests continue.”
On Sunday, the U.S. State Department said that it was “aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea.”
They added that “the security of U.S. citizens is one of the department’s highest priorities,” and that the U.S. was working with the Swedish embassy in North Korea. The Swedish embassy represents the U.S. in the North because there are no diplomatic relations between the two nations.
The State Department issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens urging them to avoid traveling to North Korea.
“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to North Korea/the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement,” the travel warning states.
Adding that “at least 14 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea in the past ten years. North Korean authorities have detained those who traveled independently and those who were part of organized tours. Being a member of a group tour or using a tour guide will not prevent North Korean authorities from detaining or arresting you.”
The two other citizens being detained in North Korea are Kim Dong-chul and Otto Warmbier. Kim Dong-chul was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2016 on spying charges. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel in Pyongyang last New Year’s while on a group tour.