The Three American Hostages Still in North Korea Following Release, Death of Otto Warmbier

north korea
AP/Wong Maye-E, File

Americans are mourning the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, a college student who was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a poster in a hotel where he was staying.

The Trump administration secured Warmbier’s release after he was imprisoned for almost a year-and-a-half. He arrived in the United States last week in a coma and died just days later.

But Warmbier was not the only American languishing in North Korea’s gulag-style prisons.

According to the New York Times, two were arrested in the last two months — Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, on April 23, and Kim Hak-song, also known as Jin Xue Song, on May 6, according to the New York Times, with each accused of “hostile acts.”

A third American, Kim Dong-chul, has been detained since 2015.

Tony Kim had spent a month in North Korea teaching accounting at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (P.U.S.T.) and was about to leave the country when he was arrested, Chan-Mo Park, chancellor of the university, told the media.

“The cause of his arrest is not known, but some officials at P.U.S.T. told me his arrest was not related to his work at P.U.S.T.,” Park told Reuters. “He had been involved with some other activities outside P.U.S.T., such as helping an orphanage.”

Kim had been living in North Korea with his wife, who is reportedly still in the country, the Times reported.

Kim Hak-song also worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, but it is not known whether his arrest was connected with the arrest of Tony Kim two weeks earlier, the Times reported.

Businessman Kim Dong-chul was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in April 2016 on spying and other offenses.

One month before his trial, he appeared in a government news conference in Pyongyang where he apologized for allegedly trying to steal military secrets in collusion with South Koreans.

Kim, 62, is from Fairfax, Virginia. He was arrested in October 2015.

“When Americans are detained in North Korea, they can expect harsh conditions, with tiny prison cells, little food or water and even less daylight. And their story line is preordained: A forced confession, a show trial, a sentence to years of hard labor with little chance of appeal,” the Times reported.

President Donald Trump issued a statement on Monday about Warmbier’s death that said in part, “Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.” It continued, “The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

Warmbier’s father, Fred, slammed former President Barack Obama during a news conference at the time of his son’s release. “The question is, do I think the past administration could have done more?” he said. “I think the results speak for themselves.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.