02/09/2016 11:02 BST | Updated 02/09/2016 13:06 BST

David Sneddon 'Kidnapped By North Korea' Parents Claim Despite Being Declared Dead in 2004

His body was never found.

David Sneddon has been missing, presumed dead, since 2004.

A US student who went missing in during a trip to China in 2004 and was presumed dead is reported to have actually been kidnapped by North Korea to teach English to Kim Jong-un.

David Sneddon vanished in the Yunnan Province in western China aged 24 whilst on a hiking trip with officials concluding he had been swept away after falling into a river.

A body was never found.

Davids brother James (C) and father Roy (R).

His parents never believed this version of events and their hopes appear to have been justified with fresh reports of a sighting of him in the secretive state working and living in the capital Pyongyang with a wife and two children.

Roy and Kathleen Sneddon theorised Kim Jong-il’s regime had kidnapped him for his fluency in both English and Korean.

Kathleen told the Deseret News Utah the sighting “didn’t surprise us at all”.

She added: “We just knew in our heart that he was alive, so we had to keep fighting,”


KCNA KCNA / Reuters
The body of Kim Jong-il, Jong-un's father, lies in state after his death in December 2011.

The US Department of State has said it will launch an official search for him.

David was last seen leaving a Korean restaurant in Shangri-La on the 14th August 2004.

He was reported missing 12 days later when he failed to show up at Seoul airport where his brother, James, was waiting for him.

His father told the Daily Mail: “We initially thought that China had picked David up thinking he was involved in the underground railroad, because a former companion of his had been teaching a North Korean family in Beijing.

“We thought they might just say “We made a mistake” if we weren’t too confrontational.”

David had spent some time working as a Mormon missionary in South Korea before he disappeared.

His parents set up a website and Facebook page in an effort to find information on where their son was.

They eventually came into contact with Chuck Downs who was working for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea in 2011 who told them kidnappings were far more common than people knew - he even introduced them to a group of Japanese who had gone through the experience.

The new sighting came from a call in to a radio show on which Ray and Kathleen spoke of their son’s disappearance.


David is reported to have taught English to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un.

A US citizen living near Seoul told them someone fitting David’s description was teaching English in Pyonyang.

Kathleen said: “Our contact said that this reporter is not always accurate. Sometimes he’s spot-on and sometimes he’s not. 

“Right now we’re saying we’re hopefully optimistic.”