Mike Pompeo returns from North Korea with 3 American prisoners

10 May 2018

Mike Pompeo returns from North Korea with 3 American prisoners

Image credit: Agence France-Presse

Three US citizens imprisoned in North Korea have been released and returned home with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US President Donald Trump announced the their release on Twitter on Wednesday, writing:

Two of the men, Tony Kim and Kim Ha-song, are ethnic Koreans who were working at the Christian-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology when they were arrested last year for hostile acts.

The third man, Kim-Dong Chul, is a pastor who was convicted of espionage in 2015 and sentenced to 10 years hard labour.

“[We thank] all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home,” the family of 59-year-old Tony Kim said.

The arrests at the time were widely seen as being politically motivated.

South Korea praised the release of the Americans, saying, “North Korea’s decision will have a very positive effect for the success of the North Korea-US summit.”

The last American to be released from North Korea was college student Otto Warmbier, who was in a coma when he was placed on a special flight home. He died soon after arriving.

The death of Mr Warmbier played a key role in the fast-paced deterioration of relations between the US and North Korea.

The fate of the detainees has been a trepidatious issue among many in the lead up to the first ever meeting between the US and North Korean leaders.

However, Mr Pompeo’s visit in contrast appears to have cemented a summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

Mr Trump sent Mr Pompeo to retrieve the detainees as a sign of goodwill before the summit, which is planned to take place in late May or early June.