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"We've Never Given Up," Sneddon Family On Son's Abduction By N. Korea, Congressional Letter to Trump

Dennis Stock

Cache Valley residents Roy and Kathleen Sneddon have been living with their son’s disappearance for 12 years. 24-year-old David Sneddon was last seen hiking in China, leaving no physical trace. Now, the Sneddons and several Asian sources believe David was actually kidnapped by North Korea. 

Utah Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Chris Stewart urged the Trump Administration Monday to consider North Korea’s possible involvement. UPR’s Dennis Stock traveled to the Sneddon home in Providence to discuss their plight.

STOCK: For those who aren’t familiar with David’s story, could you tell us a little more about what happened in 2004?

MRS. SNEDDON: David, a student at BYU, was studying Mandarin Chinese in Beijing. And at the end of his semester completed there he wanted to take a hike throughout many places in China but the first spot was going to be Tiger Leaping Gorge down in Yunnan Province. He had a business appointment in Seoul, Korea and when he didn’t show up for that in two weeks then we definitely knew he was missing. And he’s been missing ever since then. We thought he was in China and the Chinese embassy absolutely assured me, ‘You don’t lose an American in China.’”

MR. SNEDDON: About the second week of September, my two sons -- Michael and James -- and I flew to Yunnan Province and we tried to retrace David’s steps. We hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge. We found ten or twelve people who had seen him, recollected him, and that’s the last time we were able to find any trace of him.

MRS. SNEDDON: It might be helpful to note that David had served an LDS mission in [South] Korea so he was fluent in Korean and he was also studying Chinese and, of course, he knows English. And that’s where we think he could’ve been abducted because of those language skills; that North Korea -- first, we’re not really positive for what reason. First, it was told he was working with spies and helping those kinds of people. We’ve heard rumors that he’s been teaching English to the leaders of [North] Korea and, of course, we don’t know this for sure. And that’s why we think he was abducted from China and taken into [North] Korea.

STOCK: You both have gone to great lengths to try to know what’s become of your son and this story has received attention for over the past decade. But it seems like, recently, in the past two years, it’s been receiving more coverage. What do you consider the greatest contributor or factor?

MRS. SNEDDON: We’ve kept working with the State Department, with government officials. We’ve had the most support from NGOs, who have been very supportive. What I think really brought it to the headquarters of people listening to it was a South Korean gentlemen who works with defectors from North Korea went public. All the people he worked with had seen and talked to David and knew he was definitely teaching English. And when that hit the media, it went throughout the world -- literally throughout the world.

STOCK: In their letter, our Congress members remarked about the death of Otto Warmbier, I was wondering: How does it feel that it took the death of another American to draw attention to your guys’ plight and David’s case?

MRS. SNEDDON: Well, anything that draws attention to my son, of course I’m grateful for. But, nevertheless, what’s happened to Warmbier is just tragic, tragic. And I just -- my heart goes out to the whole family.

MR. SNEDDON: I think the U.S. citizenry as well as the government needs to address itself to the tens-of-thousands of North Korean average citizens who are, in essence, slaves to the state. And Otto Warmbier, David Sneddon -- those are just young men; there are tens-of-thousands, as I have said, who need attention.

MRS. SNEDDON: If you were to ask me what I would hope and expect to come from all of this, it’s not just David’s safe return. I would hope that, somehow, the result of what happened to Otto -- and to David -- and others there would open up the eyes of people and say, ‘This is a major humanitarian problem the world needs to address and do something about.’”