Did North Korea abduct missing U.S. student David Sneddon?

Story highlights

  • Reports claim young American was abducted in 2004, but US government says no evidence
  • Parents have maintained he was kidnapped for years

(CNN)If true, it could be one of the most astonishing stories to ever emerge from North Korea.

A media report on Friday repeated claims that a 24-year-old American man was kidnapped in China in 2004 and taken to Pyongyang to work as an English tutor for current leader Kim Jong Un.
    However, the US State Department says there is no evidence to confirm reports that missionary David Sneddon was seized while hiking in China's Yunnan province. CNN reached out to the North Korean embassy in Beijing, but our calls went unanswered.
    "The embassy in Beijing ... has been in regular, ongoing contact with the local authorities since David Sneddon was reported missing ... We continue to closely monitor this matter and we continue to raise it with Chinese authorities," US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said.
    Sneddon went missing near the Tiger Leaping Gorge, just over 12 years ago, and when investigators failed to find any trace of him, Chinese authorities suggested he may have fallen to his death.

    'Help us bring David home'

    Roy and Kathleen Sneddon have been searching for their son for more than a decade, including trips to China and petitions to the United States congress, according to their website www.helpfinddavid.com.
    "Try to imagine Kathleen and my frustration and anxiety as we seek further information about our son," Roy wrote in a blog post on August 25.
    James and Roy Sneddon searching for David in Yunnan in 2004.
    "Our goal is to ensure that the US government does everything possible to investigate his likely abduction and secure his safe return to the US."
    According to his parents' website, Sneddon spoke fluent Korean as well as some Mandarin.
    He had been working in Seoul, South Korea as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    In May 2012 they posted a blog entry titled, "Was David abducted by DPRK (North Korea)? You decide..."