SEOUL, South Korea welcomed the release of three American citizens held by North Korea on Wednesday, calling for the release of six of its own held captives in the communist state.
"We welcome North Korea's decision to return the three American captives," Yoon Young-chan, chief press secretary to President Moon Jae-in, said in a released statement.
"In addition, we believe it has a significant meaning in that all three American captives are Korean descendants," he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on the way to the U.S. with the three Korean Americans. Trump also said Pompeo had a "good meeting" with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the date and place of his summit with Kim have been set.
"The North's such decision will work as a very positive factor for the success of the North Korea-U.S. summit," Yoon said.
The official from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae expressed hope for the release of South Korean citizens held in the North, noting President Moon has also made such a request to the North Korean leader when they met for a third inter-Korean summit late last month.
"President Moon asked Chairman Kim to quickly release six South Koreans held in North Korea at the South-North summit. ... We hope for an early release of our citizens in a way of further spreading the reconciliation between the South and the North and the feeling of a spring of peace that has begun to fill the Korean Peninsula," he said.
The six South Koreans held in the North include three North Korean defectors who were either abducted or lured back into the communist state.
The remaining three are Christian missionaries taken hostage in 2013 and 2014.
Source: Yonhap News Agency