North Korea Frees Three US Prisoners Ahead of Summit

Detainees flying back to US with Mike Pompeo

Early Wednesday, North Korea freed three US citizens from prison. The release came less than a week after reports that the prisoners had been relocated to a hotel, pending a release. The three flew out of North Korea with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They arrived back in the United States overnight, and were met by President Trump.

US detainees

The prisoner releases were seen as an important goodwill gesture for North Korea to make ahead of an upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. It is likely it was timed to coincide with Pompeo’s visit to North Korea.

The three detainees, Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, had been detained on charges of “hostile acts” against North Korea. The charges against them center on espionage allegations, along with Christian missionary work.

US officials praised their release as a positive sign, while President Trump said it was “a wonderful thing.”  South Korea also said it should have a “positive effect” on ongoing talks, adding that they hope to get a similar release of detained South Koreans. Six South Koreans are believed to be held, though North Korea insists some of them want to remain in the north of their own free will.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of