Missing Utah Hiker Is Reportedly Tutoring Kim Jong-Un

Twelve years after disappearing on a hike in western China, David Sneddon is being held captive to teach English in North Korea, according to a Japanese news report

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A Utah man who disappeared while hiking through western China in 2004 may have been located in North Korea, and is said to be tutoring the country’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, in English, according to an August 31 report from a Japanese news agency. 

David Sneddon was a 24-year-old college student at Brigham Young University studying Mandarin in China 12 years ago when he vanished in the mountains of Yunnan Province during a solo hike. At the time, the circumstances of his disappearance were unclear, and many thought he had died. But doubts about his death emerged when, in 2011, a former U.S. official called Sneddon’s parents in Utah and told them that their son may have been kidnapped by North Koreans. This week's report raises new questions about what's become of Sneddon.

“These latest developments should be investigated and hopefully our state department will exhaust all of its capabilities to determine whether a U.S. citizen is being held captive by North Korea,” says writer Chris Vogel, who reported a feature on Sneddon’s mysterious disappearance for Outside in 2014. “My best wishes are with the Sneddon family.”

According to the Japanese news report published this week, Sneddon is believed to have a wife and two children in North Korea. Sneddon’s family in Utah has reached out to the news agency for confirmation, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

“We have no proof that it's reliable, to be honest,” David Sneddon’s mother, Kathleen Sneddon, told the Tribune. “We in our hearts think he's alive. We think he's probably teaching English. That's the most likely thing to use him for.”