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Americans detained in North Korea

Posted at 10:57 PM, May 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-02 22:57:01-04

(RNN) – North Korea will imminently release three Americans who have been imprisoned in the country, CNN is reporting.

President Donald Trump earlier on Wednesday alluded to the release in a tweet.

"As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!" the president wrote.

CNN’s Will Ripley reports that the decision to release the trio was made two months ago, citing an "official with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations."

Ripley identified the three men as Kim Dong Chol, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk (who is also known as Tony Kim). They had reportedly been held at a labor prison camp.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk were both arrested in the North last year. They were employees at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a private university in the North's capital.

The only explanation for their arrest came from North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, which described their offenses as "hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country."

Kim Dong Chol was arrested in October 2015 and six months later was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor. 

Kim notably made a televised confession and in January 2016 spoke to CNN. In an interview in Pyongyang, the 62-year-old admitted to spying for "conservative elements" in the South and was "tasked with taking photos of military secrets and 'scandalous' scenes."

"They asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government," he said.

However, a North Korean defector who claimed to have met him said he was a Christian missionary who was doing humanitarian work in the country.

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