THREE prisoners have been released by North Korea and have returned to the United States.
The men, Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song, arrived near Washington, DC, on Thursday morning, and were greeted by President Donald Trump. Kim Dong-chul and Kim Hak-song are both Evangelicals.
On their arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, the trio spoke of their “deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo [Secretary of State], and the people of the United States for bringing us home”.
They said: “We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”
Kim Dong-chul is reportedly a pastor, and Kim Hak-song has described himself as a Christian missionary in the past. All three were arrested on charges of espionage between 2015 and 2017.
Their return precedes a landmark summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. President Trump told reporters: “Hopefully everything is going to work out at the highest level. We want to thank Kim Jong-un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people.”
The three had been in captivity in forced-labour camps for periods ranging from one to two years.
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 labour. But when I got sick I was also treated by them.”
President Trump said of the release: “That was a big thing, very important to me, and I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”
It came about as a result of Mr Pompeo’s visit to North Korea to arrange the meeting between the North Korean leader and the President.
Last month, North and South Korea made a commitment to “lasting peace” on the Korean peninsula in a joint statement (News, 27 April).