16 years ago, a student disappeared in Asia. Years later, his family was told that he was in an unexpected place…


Every day hundreds or even thousands of people disappear in the world. The reasons are different: accidents, crimes, inattention. Some of the missing can be found, but there are many more tragic stories. In 2004, a 24-year-old American, David Louis Sneddon, a student at Brigham Young University, joined the list of missing persons.

David has long dreamed of getting acquainted with Asian culture, and in the summer of 2004 he had the opportunity to travel to the countries of the East. Already on August 24, shortly after David’s departure, his parents were informed of his disappearance. The young man disappeared in the Chinese province of Yunnan when he crossed the Jumping Tiger Gorge alone. 

He was last seen at a local Korean restaurant, after that his trail is lost. The official position of the Chinese government is that David Sneddon had an accident while hiking – allegedly he broke off the trail and fell into the Jinsha River flowing through the Jumping Tiger Gorge. But the American’s body was never found.

The US authorities accepted the position of the Chinese government, but for David’s parents, the official version did not look at all convincing. Roy and Caitlin Sneddon knew that their son was an experienced traveler, he could not break off the trail. Moreover, this version had no real confirmation. Roy Sneddon and his two other sons even went to the Chinese province of Yunnan to conduct their own investigation. 

They were able to get into the Jumping Tiger Gorge only a month after David disappeared. All the Sneddons saw there were police scouring the area. But Roy Sneddon did find out something. He found out that David, along with a guide, went through the entire gorge, and also found several witnesses who had seen his son in various institutions. But I couldn’t find out anything else. The family was disappointed, but they believed that David was alive.

After 7 years, in 2011, Nicholas Kraft, a lawyer and expert on North Korea, contacted the Sneddons. This person said that there is a high probability that David’s mysterious disappearance is the result of a North Korean kidnapping operation. Kraft also claimed that Chinese police officers had such suspicions, especially since it was during the period of David’s disappearance that North Korean operatives were active in Yunnan Province. 

After hearing this message, Caitlin Sneddon said: “My son worked in Korea as a Mormon missionary, he spoke Korean very well. I think it was because of his good knowledge of the language that he could become a target for the special services of North Korea.” But still, it was hard to believe in such a version and the Sneddons considered it ridiculous.

But in 2016, the Union of Families of Abducted South Koreans, an organization that investigates abductions, received insider information that David Sneddon was abducted by North Korean agents in order for him to teach English to no one but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Ye Jung. There was also information that David still lives in Pyongyang, but he already has a Korean name – Yoon Bong Soo. 

It is also known that the young man has long been married to a North Korean woman named Kim Eun Hye, and that they have two children. But even after receiving information that Sneddon had been abducted by the special services of North Korea, the US leadership was in no hurry to do anything to save its citizen. Although in the fall of 2016, the US House of Representatives unanimously voted for the US State Department and all other intelligence agencies to resume the investigation into Sneddon’s disappearance.

Not so long ago, the North Korean Freedom Association, a Washington–based human rights organization for the protection of human rights, began to conduct activities aimed at signing a resolution on the investigation of Sneddon’s abduction. But David is still on the lists of people who are missing. The North Korean authorities still deny their involvement in his disappearance. 

Sneddon’s parents are confident that their son is alive and hope that he will return home soon. Caitlin Sneddon says: “I have always felt with all my heart that my son is alive. We will continue to fight for David’s repatriation.” But if Sneddon really trained Kim Jong-un, then it is unlikely that he will be able to leave North Korea for the United States. Although there is always hope.

There are many cases when, contrary to all the evidence, mothers believed that their children were alive. And what is most surprising, it turned out to be true. Perhaps this is one of these cases? And what do you think about it, is the man really in North Korea, because relatives have received such information from several sources.

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