David Sneddon, a student at Brigham Young University in Utah, disappeared in the Yunnan Province in western China when he was 24.
He was presumed to have died while hiking in Tiger Leaping Gorge near the Jinsha River on August 14, 2004, but a body was never found.
But on Wednesday, he was reportedly spotted in North Korea and is said to be working as an English teacher, Yahoo News Japan reported.
According to Choi Sun-yong, who leads the Abductees’ Family Union, a source revealed that Mr Sneddon had actually been kidnapped so that he could teach English to Kim Jong-un, then an heir to the country’s dictatorship.
His parents have never believed that their son died falling in to a river and assumed that he must have been taken for his fluency in Korean, knowing the reputation the country has with kidnappings.
They have continued to campaign for their son, telling Deseret News Utah: ‘We just knew in our heart that he was alive, so we had to keep fighting.’
The US Department of State have now announced that they will begin searching for Mr Sneddon in North Korea.
Chris Stewart, a representative from the US House Intelligence Committee, earlier said: ‘The evidence indicates that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about David’s disappearance.
‘David’s family deserves answers to those questions, and until we find those answers, I will continue urging the State Department to pursue all possible explanations for David’s disappearance,’ the officer added.