North Korea just released three Americans ahead of Trump-Kim meeting

Matt Saintsing
May 09, 2018 - 11:33 am

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

Three Americans who had been imprisoned in North Korea are on their way back to the United States, President Trump said Wednesday after Secretary of State secured their release during a recent visit to Pyongyang.

“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet. “They seem to be in good health.”

In a follow up tweet, Trump said the former American prisoners are to land at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, D.C., at 2:00 am Thursday.

“I will be there to greet them,” said Trump. “Very exciting!”

Pompeo also met with Kim Jong-Un, according to Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson.

“(Pompeo and Kim Jong Un) had a productive discussion on a range of issues, including the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim,” she said in a statement, adding, Pompeo “is delighted” to bring the three Americans home.

While Pompeo was in North Korea, he and Kim agreed on a place and date for the first ever summit between a sitting President of the United States and a North Korean leader.

The three American detainees were considered prisoners of war to North Korea and had not been seen by an American since June, when a State Department official was granted a short visit to see them while they transferred Otto Warmbier, the detained American college student who was released to the U.S. in a coma and died days after his return.

Here are the American prisoners that were just freed:

Kim Hak-song had previously worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, but was detained last May after being accused of “hostile acts” against North Korea. Kim was born in China, but studied in the U.S.

“He was a very diligent, hard-working man determined to help people in North Korea,” CNN learned from David Kim, a former classmate of Kim’s.

“He went to Pyongyang to devote himself to the development of North Korea's agricultural technology so that the North can be self-sufficient with food.”

Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, was taken into custody in April 2017 as he was trying to fly out of Pyongyang airport. Like other detainees, he had worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, teaching a class on international finance and management.

Kim Dong-chul, a former resident of Virginia, is a businessman that had lived in Yanji, China since 2001 and worked in the special economic zone just across the North Korean border. He was accused of spying on the Kim regime and sentenced to a decade of hard labor in April 2016.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1987.