May 9 (UPI) — The three remaining Americans being held in North Korea have been released and are headed home, U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday.
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning the three men — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk (also known as Tony Kim) and Kim Hak-song — are returning to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health,” Trump said in his tweet.
Trump also said Pompeo had a “good meeting” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and that a date and place for the leaders’ planned summit has been established.
In an email statement to UPI on Wednesday, the family Tony Kim said they are “very grateful” for the release.
“We are very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees. We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home. We also want to thank the President for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return,” the statement read. “We appreciate all of the support and prayers of friends and even strangers during this challenging year. You are dear to our hearts. We ask that you continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all who are still being held. “
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018
There were signs in early May that North Korea was preparing to release the prisoners.
South Korean activist Choi Sung-ryong, the representative of the group Family Assembly of those Abducted to North Korea, said the decision from North Korea to release the detainees came after Pompeo’s first meeting with Kim over Easter weekend.
Choi had also said the three U.S. citizens were first taken to a hotel for rehabilitation, then placed in a re-education program.
Kim Hak-song and Tony Kim worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Kim Dong Chul, president of a company involved in international trade and hotel services, was sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges.
At least one South Korean analyst has said North Korea made the move to demand the lifting of sanctions in return, but Trump made no mention Wednesday of any concessions Washington may have made.