ICC NOTE: A Korean-American recently appearing on television in North Korean custody has been identified according to both Reuters and CNN as Christian pastor Kim Dong Chul, formerly of Fairfax, Virginia. The pastor, if confirmed, would be the second westerner to be held captive by the North Korean regime after Canadian pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim was detained in February of 2015. According to Ma Young-ae, a North Korean defector working as a missionary in New York, Kim Dong Chul is in fact a Korean-American pastor whom she said informed church gatherings he was a missionary aiding North Koreans through medical aid via China.
1/12/2016 North Korea (Reuters) – A Korean-American man who says he is being held in North Korea was a Christian pastor who had worked in China and the United States, a North Korean defector who met him and traveled with him in 2007 told Reuters.
CNN reported on Monday from North Korea that it had been given access to a man claiming to be an American, who identified himself as Kim Dong Chul, and who said he had been arrested in North Korea on spying charges.
He appealed for help from the United States or South Korea to rescue him.
A U.S. State Department official declined to comment on the report about Kim, saying that speaking publicly about specific cases of detained Americans can complicate efforts to get them released.
If confirmed, Kim, who CNN said was 60 and formerly of Fairfax, Virginia, would be the second Western citizen known to be held in North Korea. The other is Korean-Canadian.
CNN was given access to both men this week, just days after isolated North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test.
The test angered its main ally, China, as well as the United States. Kim would be the first American to be held by the North since it released three U.S. citizens in 2014.
A North Korean defector, Ma Young-ae, told Reuters on Tuesday that she had met Kim in the United States and he had told church gatherings he was a missionary helping North Koreans.
“He told the churches that he was a missionary working on North Korea and sending stuff from China into the North to help poor North Koreans,” Ma told Reuters by telephone, recalling Kim making speeches around California and Virginia in 2007 and seeking donations.
Ma, who is working as a missionary based in the New York area under what she said was security protection, described Kim as a Korean-American.
“I was shocked to see his face on TV,” said Ma.
Kim had told her he was sending medical aid into North Korea and going in and out of Rason, a North Korean special economic zone bordering China, she said.
A photograph from a small Korean-American online publication showed a man it said was Kim talking at an unidentified church in the Washington, D.C., area, although Reuters cannot independently verify the picture.