President Donald J. Trump, First Lady Milania, Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence greeted three Americans freed by North Korea at 3:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, May 10, 2018.
Below is biographical information about the three American citizens released by North Korea courtesy of The Daily Mail. Who are the Americans freed by North Korea today? The common trait is all are devout Christians.
Kim Dong Chul
A naturalised US citizen born in South Korea, Kim Dong Chul was seized in North Korea on October 2, 2015, and accused of spying.
Though a resident of Virginia – he became a US citizen in 1987 – Kim had been living with his wife in Yanji, China since 2001.
He worked just across the border in North Korea at the Rason-Sonbong special economic zone, where he ran a hotel services company. He was also a pastor.
Very little was known about his status until, in January 2016, he was interviewed by a CNN news crew that was visiting Pyongyang.
Two months later, he told reporters at a news conference organised by the dictatorship that he was a spy, explaining that he ‘apologised for trying to steal military secrets in collusion with South Koreans’ and calling his actions ‘unpardonable’.
The North accused him of receiving a USB drive as well as various papers containing nuclear secrets during a meeting with a defector from the regime.
After a one-day trial in April, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour for his supposed espionage.
But previous victims of the regime have explained that they were forced to make similar public declarations of their guilt after being tortured, despite being innocent.
Kim Hak-song – also known as Jin Xue Song – had been working for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), undertaking agricultural development work with the school’s farm.
He was arrested at Pyongyang railway station in May 2017 on suspicion of committing ‘hostile acts’ against the government, as he was boarding a train headed for his home in Dandong, China.
Kim, who is in his mid 50s, was born in Jilin, China, and educated at a university in California, CNN reported, citing a man who had studied with him.
He said Kim returned to China after about 10 years of living in the US, where he is a citizen.
PUST was founded by evangelical overseas Christians and opened in 2010, and is known to have a number of American faculty members.
Pupils are generally children from the North’s elite.
It is not known whether Kim was sentenced for his supposed ‘hostile acts’.
Korean-American Kim Sang-duk, or Tony Kim, was arrested in April 2017 at the capital’s main airport as he tried to leave the country after teaching for several weeks as a guest lecturer, also at PUST.
Kim is a former professor at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China, close to the Korean border.
Its website lists his speciality as accounting.
He graduated from the University of California Riverside in 1990, gaining a master’s degree in business administration.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has reported Kim as being in his late 50s and said he had been involved in relief activities for children in rural parts of North Korea.
It cited a source who described him as a ‘religiously devoted man’.
He was detained with his wife at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang on April 22 last year while waiting for a flight.
Police later arrested Kim but did not explain why – but his wife was allowed to leave the country.
PUST said the arrest was not related to his work at the university.
In a Facebook post, Kim’s son said since his arrest his family has had no contact with him.
His family said Kim will soon become a grandfather.
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