Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Hak-song were turned over to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who flew to Pyongyang amid preparations for an upcoming summit between Trump and Kim.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump said that the time and place of the historic meeting with Kim Jong-un had been decided and he would announce the details in the next three days. His comments came after the meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, pictures of which were broadcast around the world. "Through actual behavior, let's show that we three nations support engaging in free trade". Though they're all surnamed Kim, they are not related. He was arrested in 2015; Tony Kim was arrested in April previous year and Hak-song was detained arrested in May 2017.
Little is known about why the three were detained or what conditions they faced in North Korean custody. He was detained in April a year ago by the North Korean government, which accused him of attempting to overthrow the government.
Trump also promised that he would be there to greet the released prisoners when they land at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.
The Kim family launched a social media campaign, "Free USA 3", ahead of the Winter Olympic Games to help bring them home. He said Kim returned to China after about 10 years of living in the US. His family said Kim will soon become a grandfather. "This is a good choice", said Mintaro Oba, a former state department official who worked on Korean negotiations. He told CNN in January that year that he was a US citizen who spied on behalf of "South Korean conservative elements" before his arrest in North Korea in October.
"I think it would be a great gesture if they would agree to do so", Pompeo said, adding that it would be hard to hold a leaders' summit if the prisoners remained captive. "I think it's going to be a very successful deal".
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The trip came just days after North Korea expressed displeasure with Washington for comments suggesting that massive U.S. pressure had pushed Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table. He was educated at a university in California.
January 1, 2018: Kim says in his New Year's address that he has a nuclear button on his desk, but also calls for improved relations with South Korea.
In this image released by the White House, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, during a 2018 trip. He taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. While it's unclear if Kim's faith had anything to do with his detention, other Americans have been severely punished for acts Pyongyang views as proselytizing.
According to media reports, Kim Dong Chul was a South Korea-born USA citizen and former Virginia resident.
The translation was later independently corroborated by CNN, but it's impossible to say if Kim was speaking under duress. He said he hoped North Korea would "do the right thing". "I appreciate Kim Jong Un allowing this to happen", Trump said later on Wednesday.