North Korea frees three US detainees

Left to right: Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim

North Korea has freed three US citizens from prison, according to a tweet from US President Donald Trump.

It is viewed as a goodwill gesture ahead of a historic summit between Mr Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Mr Trump said he would greet the men when they return with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been in Pyongyang to arrange the planned talks.

Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chu were able to “walk on the plane without assistance”, the White House said.

They had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labour camps.

 

He announced the release of the men in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We made substantial progress and agreed to further co-operate in jointly planning the summit,” a US official told reporters.

“We also agreed to meet again in person to finalise the details.”

 

Who are the Americans?

  • Kim Hak-song was held on suspicion of “hostile acts” in May 2017. He had previously described himself as a Christian missionary who intended to start an experimental farm at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST)
  • Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, also worked at PUST. He was detained in April 2017 on espionage charges. According to South Korean media, he had been involved in humanitarian work in the North.
  • Kim Dong-chul, a pastor in his early 60s, was detained in 2015 on spying charges and was then sentenced to 10 years hard labour.

What are North Korean prisons like?

120,000 people are believed to be imprisoned in North Korea without any legal process, according to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

People can be jailed by the regime for almost anything, activists say, with crimes ranging from watching a South Korean DVD to trying to defect from the country.

Political prisoners are often sent to separate prisons – usually of which are brutal labour camps, which involve difficult physical work such as mining and logging.

by Ben – Correspondent for the General News section.

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