As a goodwill gesture, North Korea has released three US citizens, Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul, and Tony Kim, from prison.
On May 9, US President Donald Trump announced the prisoners’ release via Twitter.
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. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un freed the prisoners in a show a good faith just ahead of the upcoming, historic summit between President Trump and himself.
President Trump said that he planned to meet the former prisoners when they returned to the US with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been in Pyongyang to arrange the summit on his behalf.
I had productive meetings in Pyongyang with Chairman Kim Jong-un and made progress. I'm delighted to bring home three Americans.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 9, 2018
The talks between Mike Pompeo and Kim Jong Un have reportedly gone well.
On May 10, President Trump kept his promise by meeting the prisoners as soon as they landed back on home soil, at the Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.
On behalf of the American people, WELCOME HOME! pic.twitter.com/hISaCI95CB
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2018
After being jailed for various “anti-state activities”, Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chu had all been placed in labor camps.
Kim Hak-song, a Christian missionary, was arrested in May 2017, for allegedly taking part in “hostile acts”. He had intended to start an experimental farm at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).
Tony Kim, a humanitarian worker, was detained in April 2017, for espionage. Before his arrest, he was also an employee at PUST. Pastor Kim Dong-chul was detained in 2015 for spying, then sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.
Their controversial imprisonment has widely been considered a violation of human rights.
In North Korea, approximately 120,000 people are believed to currently be imprisoned without due process. According to activists, punishable crimes can range from watching a South Korean DVD to trying to defect.
North Korean labor camps involve difficult physical work like mining and logging.
Otto Warmbier, the last freed US prisoner, returned home in 2017 but, unlike the three former detainees, he was in incredibly poor health. He died shortly after his release.
Otto Warmbier had been jailed for stealing a hotel sign.
When Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul stepped out of the plane, they all appeared to be in good health and good spirits.
Kim Dong-chul said, “It’s like a dream and we are very, very happy. We were treated in many different ways. For me, I had to do a lot of labor. But when I got sick I was also treated by them.”
The former detainees previously released a statement expressing their thanks to all who helped to bring them home.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home.”
“We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”