SEOUL, - A Korean-American man who says he is being held in North Korea was a Christian pastor who had worked in China and the United States, a North Korean defector who met him and traveled with him in 2007 told Reuters.
CNN reported on Monday from North Korea that it had been given access to a man claiming to be an American, who identified himself as Kim Dong Chul, and who said he had been arrested in North Korea on spying charges.
He appealed for help from the United States or South Korea to rescue him.
A US State Department official declined to comment on the report about Kim, saying that speaking publicly about specific cases of detained Americans can complicate efforts to get them released.
If confirmed, Kim, who CNN said was 60 and formerly of Fairfax, Virginia, would be the second Western citizen known to be held in North Korea. The other is Korean-Canadian.
CNN was given access to both men this week, just days after isolated North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test.
The test angered its main ally, China, as well as the United States. Kim would be the first American to be held by the North since it released three U.S. citizens in 2014.
A North Korean defector, Ma Young-ae, told Reuters on Tuesday that she had met Kim in the United States and he had told church gatherings he was a missionary helping North Koreans.
"He told the churches that he was a missionary working on North Korea and sending stuff from China into the North to help poor North Koreans," Ma told Reuters by telephone, recalling Kim making speeches around California and Virginia in 2007 and seeking donations.