An alleged dual South Korean-American citizen, Kim Dong Chul, is begging the U.S. or South Korean governments to rescue him from his imprisonment in North Korea.
The reportedly former Fairfax, Virginia resident has not been formally charged, but has been held by North Korean security officials since October 2015. In an exclusive interview with CNN released Monday, Kim admits he spied on behalf of the South Korean government during his time as a business executive.
“I’m asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me,” Kim says to CNN while being interviewed in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
Born in South Korea, Kim says he is a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to Yanji, China in 2001 in order to run an international trade and hotel company in a special economic zone in Rason, North Korea. Yanji sits near the Chinese-North Korean border, which allowed Kim to travel into Rason for business.
“Speaking publicly about specific purported cases of detained Americans can complicate our tireless efforts to secure their freedom,” says a U.S. Department of State official to CNN. The U.S. government has not confirmed Kim’s citizenship.
Kim’s unique access to North Korea garnered the attention of South Korean intelligence services, according to the report. “I was tasked with taking photos of military secrets and ‘scandalous’ scenes,” he says. “They asked me to help destroy the [North Korean] system and spread propaganda against the government.”
North Korean security officials had been watching Kim since 2009, CNN reports. Kim began his espionage activities in April 2013, and was eventually caught in October 2015 while trying to meet a North Korean source.
Kim received the equivalent of $5,300 from the South Koreans for his activities, saying to CNN “it wasn’t about the money.”
If Kim’s citizenship is verified, it would make him the only known U.S. citizen currently in North Korea’s custody. The last U.S. citizens to be imprisoned in North Korea were Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, both were released by North Korea in 2014.