There is an empty chair at the Sneddon’s home for Christmas again. The chair has been empty for 14 years. Their son David disappeared while visiting China in 2004.
The Sneddons have been back to the area where David disappeared several times, looking for anything they could find about their son.
They have visited hostels, cafes and anywhere that people might remember an American who spoke fluent Korean, and some Chinese. His language skills came while serving a two year mission for his church and studying Chinese at Brigham Young University.
Early on, Chinese officials reported David may have fallen into a river and drowned, but there was no body recovered. Because of David’s experience and expertise in the outdoors, a fall into the river didn’t make a lot of sense.
The Sneddons have, what they think, are credible accounts that David is alive, teaching English and is married in North Korea. They are convinced he was kidnapped by the North Koreans.
Recently, the combined Utah delegation in both the U.S. House and Senate introduced resolutions urging the State Department to investigate the disappearance of Sneddon who, at 24 years old, vanished while in China in August of 2004. The resolution was introduced by Senator Mike Lee.
“At the time of his disappearance, David had his whole life ahead of him. He was eager to get back to BYU’s beautiful campus and recently signed up to take the LSAT,” Lee said. “But he never had a chance to do any of those things and the Sneddon family deserves to know why.”
Lee said the first and most important responsibility of the United States Government is to ensure the safety and freedom of the American people at home and abroad.
“The State Department’s responsibilities in this matter include investigating all plausible explanations behind David’s disappearance. They should leave no stone unturned in trying to return one of our brothers to his family,” Lee said.
A year ago the Senator gave a speech thanking the Japanese for documenting North Korea abductions of their citizens. That documentation could be the support the government needs to investigate the abduction claim.
“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,” Lee told the group. “He likely has been held captive in that country ever since.”
Lee argued that just one month before Sneddon’s disappearance, the North Koreans released Charles Jenkins, an American who was forced to teach English to spies at a military university. It has been suggested that Sneddon may have replaced Jenkins.
The Utahan’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, Lee said.
“Since the Armistice, North Korea has used a combination of flattery and force to abduct many thousands more,” he said.
All told, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea estimates that there have been as many as 180,000 people abducted by North Korea. Of those 180,000 abductions, only 13 have been acknowledged by North Korea and of these 13, only 5 were allowed to return, the Senator said.
“It is unlikely we will never know the stories of those held captive in North Korea, so great are its crimes,” Lee said. “But we can do much more for the few we know.”
He said all we can do is shine a narrow searchlight into the darkness of tyranny, and wait for dawn to break on North Korea.
The Providence couple and their children hang onto bits of information, prayers and optimism that he is alive.
“He was my tithing child,” Kathleen said. “He was the tenth of my eleven children.”
“I think with all of the political upheaval, government flux, stress over human rights and atomic weaponry there are many cards on the table that weren’t there before,” Roy said. “We’re hoping it brings more light on our situation.”
Two sons and a daughter went back to Japan to get more information a week ago and found that Japanese officials estimate some 300 to 800 have been abducted in recent years by Koreans.
“We are thankful for the resolution that House and Senate has proposed in our behalf, and hope our government follows though,” Roy said. “We are really grateful to Senator Mike Lee and Congressman Chris Stewart for their support and attention to David.”
The Sneddons hope their son is a shining light to his captives.
“We think of all our children, he is the one who is the most adaptable to difficult situations,” Roy said. “His core principals are internalized, we know he is doing well.”
“The most important thing people can do for us this season is to keep praying for David,” Kathleen said.