Reports: Three U.S. Citizens Held by North Korea Released from Prison Camp


by Sharon Rondeau

(May 2, 2018) — In a significant development which received very little U.S. media coverage, three American citizens held by the North Korean regime have reportedly been released from the forced labor camp where they have been held.

The U.S. citizens are Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Dong Chul.

The International Business Times (IBT) and UPI appear to have been the first to report the news of the prisoners’ relocation on Tuesday.

On March 18, CNN reported that Sweden was involved in attempting to negotiate their freedom with a North Korean representative who visited that nation in January.

According to the IBT’s source, two of those held against their will have been in the labor camp since “last year,” while the third, a pastor and businessman, has been held by the communist regime since 2015 “on the charge of spying.”

UPI reported that the imprisonment of the three American citizens was a topic of discussion between then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-when they met clandestinely over the Easter weekend.

In mid-March, several U.S. sources reported that the Trump administration was urging North Korea to release the Americans but major media thus far have not issued updates other than The Washington Times on Wednesday.

In February, The Washington Post spotlighted the three prisoners and their families following the Winter Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea, stating that efforts to retrieve the hostages had “foundered.”

Easter Sunday fell on April 1 this year, and UPI reported that a South Korean activist said that orders were issued “in early April” to release the men from the prison camp to “a hotel outside Pyongyang, where they are also being educated.”

It is unclear what “educated” might mean other than perhaps “health treatment.”

On December 11, 2017, quoting an Auschwitz survivor who became a judge on the International Court of Justice, The Washington Post reported that “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should be tried for crimes against humanity for the way his regime uses brutal political prisons to control the population.”

The news of the prisoners’ release comes as President Trump and Jong-Un are planning a face-to-face meeting in the near future for which a number of locations, including within the Koreas’ DMZ, have been identified as possible meeting places.

Last June, American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested, sentenced and imprisoned for allegedly stealing an item from a North Korean hotel in early 2016, was returned to his home state of Ohio incapacitated.  He passed away six days after his return.

On April 26, his parents filed a lawsuit against North Korea for allegedly “violating international law” and causing their son’s death.


Update, 6:06 p.m. EDT:  The U.S. State Department on Wednesday issued a statement “on the occasion of North Korea Freedom Week” which reads:

On the occasion of North Korea Freedom Week, we must not forget the millions of North Koreans who continue to suffer under one of the most repressive and abusive governments in the world. For more than 60 years the people of North Korea have faced egregious human rights violations in virtually every aspect of life. In addition to the roughly 100,000 individuals, including children and family members of the accused, who suffer in political prison camps, North Koreans face an almost complete denial of fundamental freedoms by their government. Those trying to flee this oppressive environment, if caught, are often tortured or killed.

We remain gravely concerned and deeply troubled by these abuses. In tandem with the maximum pressure campaign, we will continue to press for accountability for those responsible. We are also going to continue our efforts to increase the flow of independent information into, out of, and within this isolated state to present everyday North Koreans with a more realistic picture of the outside world.

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