Sep 13 2017
Hello and good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here with you all.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Michael Green and the Center for Strategic and International Studies for hosting this important event, and to the Embassy of Japan for inviting me to speak.
I’d also like to welcome our friends from Japan—Keiji Furuya and Eriko Yamatani from the National Diet, as well as Takuya Yokota. Your countrymen have suffered a great deal as a result of North Korea’s criminal abductions.
No other country has done more to document these abductions than Japan, or to make sure the world recognizes them for what they are: Component parts of an international crime spree by the North Korean regime—a regime that has no respect for borders, the laws of men, or the higher law that says every human being should be treated with dignity.
So thank you again to our Japanese friends for being here, and for your important work on behalf of your countrymen and all who have been seized by North Korea.
Just a few decades ago, we would not be talking about this issue. North Korea’s abductions were even less well-known and accepted as facts than they are today. They were the stuff of rumor, of conjecture. To some, they seemed too tenuous and far-fetched even for the Hermit Kingdom.
That was how it once seemed in the case of David Sneddon, the 24-year-old Brigham Young University student who vanished in China’s Yunnan province in August 2004.
After a cursory investigation, Chinese officials concluded that David Sneddon must have died while hiking alone through Tiger Leaping Gorge.
. . . A tragic accident in a steep river canyon. A loose rock, perhaps, or a bad fall. Bad luck, for sure. Nothing more.
But David’s kin retraced his steps, and they found that the official story didn’t add up.
For one, David was an experienced hiker and a responsible kid—an Eagle Scout, in fact. Could he have fallen into such peril on a well-traveled trail? Unlikely.
Supposing he had, where was the body? Over a decade later, no remains have been produced.
Eyewitness testimony, meanwhile, placed David in a Chinese city at the end of his planned hiking route. This suggests he passed safely through the gorge before disappearing.
He would have had to circle back through the gorge in order for the official explanation to be correct. Again, unlikely. After thirteen years, no evidence exists to support the official explanation of an untimely death in the gorge.
. . . And then there were other curious details.
David Sneddon was traveling near the so-called “Asian Underground Railroad,” a network of mostly Christian missionaries who help North Korean defectors flee to safety.
North Korean agents are known to operate along the route, ruthlessly hunting down and intercepting defectors and returning them to execution or permanent captivity on the gulag peninsula of North Korea.
And Sneddon was last seen leaving a Korean restaurant. Korean restaurants reportedly are used as outposts for North Korean espionage and illicit enterprise.
Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, one month before David’s disappearance, North Korea took the rare step of releasing an American captive, 64-year-old Charles Jenkins. North Korea had forced Jenkins to teach English to its spies at a military university during his almost 40-year captivity.
After his release, the regime needed a substitute teacher. David Sneddon was an Asian Languages major. Highly educated, David spoke perfect American English with a Midwestern accent.
Subsequent intelligence from inside North Korea has supported what these facts strongly suggest: It is likely David Sneddon was taken by the North Korean regime in 2004. He likely has been held captive in that country ever since.
David Sneddon’s possible abduction is one link in a chain of North Korean crimes that stretches back to the Korean War, when the regime ordered the capture of over 80,000 “prominent” South Koreans.
Since the Armistice, North Korea has used a combination of flattery and force to abduct many thousands more.
- The regime tricked more than 90,000 ethnic Koreans in Japan into traveling to North Korea to build a “worker’s paradise” they could never leave.
- Roughly 100 other disappearances in Japan have been attributed to Pyongyang. In many cases, individuals were snatched from Japanese shores and spirited away on speedboats, never to be seen again.
- Similarly, nearly 4,000 South Korean fishermen have been abducted after run-ins with North Korean intelligence vessels.
- Recent reports indicate that North Korea has been hunting in China to discourage involvement in the Asian Underground Railroad.
- And Pyongyang’s reach extends beyond the Asia-Pacific region. Its operatives have attempted kidnappings in such familiar locales as London, Copenhagen, and Beirut.
All told, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea estimates that as many as 180,000 people have been abducted by North Korea.
One-hundred and eighty thousand. That’s just a few thousand less than the population of Salt Lake City.
Of those 180,000 abductions, only 13 have been acknowledged by North Korea and of these 13, only 5 were allowed to return.
The regime likely acknowledged this in the hope it would lead to a multibillion-dollar reparations payment from Japan. In the process of making this limited admission, it fabricated evidence and stonewalled investigators in order to cover up the true extent of its crimes.
It is easy for us to lose sight of North Korean abductions in light of the regime’s other flagrant offenses.
It has swapped weapons and expertise with other pariah states, including Iran and Syria.
It has conducted a campaign of political murders, including the assassination of a member of the Kim family in the public terminal of a Malaysian airport.
It continues to subjugate the North Korean people in conditions relatable to us only through the writings of George Orwell. For the majority of the impoverished, oppressed citizens of North Korea, from birth to death, they are doomed to suffer out their lives in the gulag peninsula of North Korea.
And of course it has made rapid strides in its nuclear weapons and ICBM programs, raising the terrible spectre of nuclear Armageddon once again.
In stark contrast to its nuclear program or its missile tests, North Korea’s abductions are quiet crimes.
They are marked not by seismic activity but by the absence of loved ones. By late-night walks never completed. By fishing boats that never return. By hikers who vanish from the trail.
Because of the quiet nature of North Korea’s abductions, it is up to the Free World to be loud. We have to be like the Sneddon family in Utah and the Yokota family in Japan, who have advocated tirelessly for their loved ones and all other abductees.
In that spirit, I, along with several of my colleagues in Congress, have introduced a joint resolution expressing our concern about the disappearance of David Sneddon.
The resolution encourages the State Department and Intelligence Community to investigate all plausible explanations for David’s disappearance—including abduction by North Korea.
The resolution further encourages the United States government to work with the Sneddon family and our allies in the region to investigate the disappearance and hopefully secure his release.
This resolution is a start, and I pray that one day soon the Sneddon family will be reunited with David.
It is unlikely we will ever know the stories of all those held captive in North Korea, so great are its crimes. But we can do much more for the few we know.
We can shine a narrow searchlight into the darkness of tyranny, and wait for dawn to break on North Korea.
Thank you all for listening. Thanks again to the Japanese delegation, and to the Sneddon family for letting me share their story.