US Hostages In North Korea May Be Released Soon, Activist Reveals

REUTERS/Jacky Chen

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

North Korea has reportedly released three American prisoners held in labor camps and relocated them to the capital, a South Korean activist revealed to local media.

“We talked with a source in North Korea today,” Choi Sung Ryong, a South Korean activist, told the Dong-a Ilbo. “North Korean authorities released Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak Song, who were previously imprisoned at a labor camp.” The three American hostages, still in North Korean custody, are reportedly staying at a hotel in Pyongyang, where they are receiving medical treatment and ideological re-education.

Kim Dong Chul, a Korean-American businessman, has been detained in the North since 2015, when he was arrested and charged with espionage. For his crimes, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in 2016.

Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk (Tony Kim) were both professors at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. They were both detained in 2017 for “hostile acts” of an unspecified nature.

The prisoners are said to have been relocated to Pyongyang in early April. In the North Korean capital, the three men are reportedly “going on tours, receiving medical treatment and eating good food.”

“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month. We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit,” Choi revealed, according to the Financial Times.

The Trump administration has been pushing for the return of the three hostages in negotiations with North Korean officials. “We are negotiating now. We are doing our very best,” Trump said in mid-April. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is believed to have brought up the issue during his visit to North Korea, where he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We are working to see U.S. citizens who are detained in North Korea come home as soon as possible,” a Department of State official recently explained to CBS News. “A comprehensive, whole-of-government effort in support of the president is underway.”

Trump is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un at an unprecedented summit in the coming weeks.

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