North Korea has detained an American trying to board a flight out of the country, according to the Swedish consulate, which represents American interests in Pyongyang.
The unidentified U.S. citizen is the third American being held hostage by North Korea.
The detained American is a professor with the frequently-used Korean surname “Kim,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
At least two other US citizens are known to be in North Korean custody.
Otto Warmbier, 21, a student at the University of Virginia, was detained at Pyongyang airport on January 2 last year after visiting the country with a tour group. He has since been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly removing a political sign from a hotel wall.
Kim Dong Chul, a naturalized US citizen of Korean origin, was arrested on October 2015. Last year, North Korea sentenced him to 10 years of hard labor on espionage charges.
Since 2013, at least two other US citizens and a British journalist have also been detained for shorter periods and then released.
All of them were grabbed by North Korean security forces as they attempted to fly out of Pyongyang airport.
Merril Newman, who at the time of his October 2013 detention was an 85-year old US veteran of the Korean War, was released two months later after a videotaped apology. American Jeffrey Fowle spent five months in detention in 2014 for allegedly leaving a bible at a club for foreign sailors.
And last May, North Korean security officers detained BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes as he was about to fly out of the country. He was interrogated for at least 10 hours and accused of defaming the Korean nation before eventually being released.
The detention comes amid a buildup of tension on the Korean peninsula. The US and Chinese governments have repeatedly warned the North Korean regime not to conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test. Pyongyang says it has the right to develop nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan — both key US allies in the region — have condemned frequent North Korean missile launches that are all banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Can you really blame North Korea? An American in their country these days is either a spy or an idiot. Given the number of innocent Americans who have been detained in recent years, any American citizen who travels to North Korea should do so without the protection of the United States government. You are asking to be taken hostage if you go to North Korea.
Some tour companies have been marketing a trip to North Korea as the ultimate travel adventure. Anyone who falls for that sales pitch needs to have his head examined. Now, the North Koreans can use the American as leverage in any negotiations. Iran did exactly the same thing when they grabbed a half a dozen Americans over the years, only to release most of them during negotiations for the nuclear deal.
Whether they are do-gooders like Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, who was captured in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years for espionage before finally being released in 2014, or brainless thrill seekers like Matthew Todd Miller, who was released in 2014 after claiming he wanted to see what it was like to be arrested by the North Koreans, it hardly matters. Any American who is dumb enough to travel to North Korea for any reason deserves what he gets.
Too harsh? Not when they willingly allow their lives to become pawns in North Korea’s diplomatic games. The relationship between the U.S. and North Korea is hard enough to manage without these gadflys gumming up the works and handing the Kim regime readymade bargaining chips that it shouldn’t possess under ordinary circumstances.