Friday 20 September 2019

Who are the three Americans freed from North Korean detention?

The men have been flown back to the United States.

A US government plane holding the three Americans detained in North Korea sits on the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport waiting to be refueled (Mark Thiessen/AP)
A US government plane holding the three Americans detained in North Korea sits on the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport waiting to be refueled (Mark Thiessen/AP)

By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

Three Americans have been released from North Korean detention ahead of an upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong Un and US president Donald Trump.

Here are profiles of the three freed men:

Kim Dong Chul

Kim Dong Chul was detained in North Korea (Kim Kwang Hyon/AP)

Kim, a South Korean-born US citizen, was the longest-serving detainee among the three.

According to North Korea’s state media, Kim, 64, ran a company in the North’s northeastern Rason special economic zone before his arrest on October 2, 2015.

He received a 10-year prison term with hard labour in April 2016 for allegedly “perpetrating state subversive plots and espionage against” North Korea.

Before his sentencing, the former Virginia resident publicly apologised for slandering North Korea’s leadership, collecting and passing confidential information to South Korea, and joining a smear campaign against the North’s human rights situation.

Other foreigners have been presented at news conferences in North Korea and admitted crimes against the North, but many said after they were released that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.

Tony Kim

Tony Kim - pictured in the centre - was freed along with two other American citizens (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Tony Kim, who also goes by the Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained on April 22, 2017, at the Pyongyang airport for committing “criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn” North Korea, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

It did not say what specific criminal acts Kim was alleged to have committed.

Kim taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which has been the only privately funded college in North Korea since its founding in 2010 with donations from Christian groups.

The school said Kim’s detention had nothing to do with his work at the university.

He previously taught Korean at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in Yanji, China, not far from the North Korea border.

Kim graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a master’s degree in business administration in 1990.

He made at least seven trips to North Korea to teach. His wife accompanied him on the visit when he was arrested. She was allowed to leave the country.

Kim Hak Song

Kim Hak Song (right) was also on board the plane with secretary of state Mike Pompeo (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

Kim worked in agricultural development at an experimental farm run by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

He was detained on May 6, 2017, for engaging in unspecified “hostile acts” against North Korea, KCNA reported.

It did not say whether his case was related to Tony Kim’s.

The university also said his detention was not related to his work at the school.

It was not known whether Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song were formally convicted and sentenced.

PA Media

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