The three U.S. citizens recently freed by North Korea spent long months trapped in the reclusive nation, accused of crimes against the government.
Kim Dong Chul had been in captivity since being seized in 2015. He was accused of spying on the North Korean government and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years of hard labor. He told CNN he had lived in the Chinese city of Yanji since 2001 and worked in the special economic zone of Rason-Sonbong, just over the border in North Korea, running a hotel services company. Born in South Korea, Kim became a U.S. citizen in 1987, according to CNN.
North Korea accused Kim of accepting a USB drive and documents containing nuclear secrets while meeting with a former North Korean soldier. At a news conference, Kim apologized for trying to steal North Korean secrets and called his own acts "unpardonable."
The Washington Post reported in 2016 that some former detainees released from North Korea have said they were forced to give confessions and told what to say.
The other two detainees were affiliated with Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the nation's only private educational institution.
Kim Sang-duk, who also uses the American name Tony Kim, was detained in April 2017 as he waited for a flight out of Pyongyang. Kim, who is on the faculty of China's Yanbian University of Science and Technology, had taught a month-long course on international finance and management at PUST and had done volunteer work at a North Korean orphanage. Yanbian University is affiliated with PUST and is located across the North Korean border in China's Jilin province.
Kim Hak-song, also known as Jin Xue Song, was born in China and educated in California. He was detained in May 2017 on suspicion of "hostile acts" against North Korea. According to the PUST chancellor, he had been doing development work with the school's agricultural farm.
The three men share a common Korean surname, but they are not related.
All three Americans met last year with Joe Yun, the U.S. State Department's top diplomat for North Korea, when Yun traveled to North Korea last year to bring home American Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, a student of the University of Virginia who was studying abroad in China, was accused of theft and detained in January 2016 during a group tour to North Korea. During his detention he went into a coma that Pyongyang said was brought on by illness and a sleeping pill. Warmbier was brought back to the United States in a vegetative state in June 2017 and died six days later.
Since 1996, North Korea has detained 16 Americans. All were eventually released. With more than 900 days in detention, Kim Dong Chul was held the longest.
Source: Voice of America