Three American Christians serving prison sentences in North Korea have been freed, according to a May 9 tweet from President Donald Trump.
Kim Dong-chul, a pastor in his early 60s, had been detained since 2015 on charges of spying and was serving out a 10-year hard-labor sentence.
Kim Hak-song, had been held on suspicion of “hostile acts” since 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), according to BBC.
Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, had been arrested in April 2017 on espionage charges. South Korean media reported that he had been involved in humanitarian work in North Korea.
Their release is viewed as a goodwill gesture ahead of the historic meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Trump tweeted that the three released prisoners were on their way home and “seem to be in good health.”
That’s good news for their family members, as the last U.S. citizen to be released from North Korea — college student Otto Warmbier — returned home in June 2017 fatally ill. He died a few days later.
Tony Kim’s family said in a statement that they were grateful to God and Trump for their husband and father’s safe return.
“We appreciate all of the support and prayers of friends and even strangers during this challenging year,” they wrote. “We ask that you continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all who are still being held.” (TAB)