By Lisa Cannon Green
Three American pastors and missionaries have been released from imprisonment in North Korea in advance of an historic meeting between leaders of the two nations.
The three men—Kim Dong-chul, Kim Hak-song, and Tony Kim—are believed to have been the only remaining American prisoners in North Korea, the New York Times reported.
Duke Kwon, lead pastor of Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, D.C., lauded the release of the “three brothers in Christ” on Twitter.
Praise God for the release of Tony Kim, Kim Dong-chul, and Kim Hak-song — three brothers in Christ and American citizens of Korean descent who have been detained in North Korean labor camps by Kim Jong Un's regime over the last 1-2 years. Prayers answered. pic.twitter.com/F7G8Ydd2Rp
— Duke Kwon (@dukekwondc) May 9, 2018
President Trump tweeted this morning that the three men appear to be in good health and are on their way back to the United States.
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
Their release comes as Trump prepares for a face-to-face meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The release of the prisoners was an American condition for the meeting, the Times reported, citing an unnamed U.S. senior official.
The three prisoners were Korean-American missionaries associated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a private college funded primarily by evangelical Christians, according to Faithwire.
Kim Dong-chul was the longest held of the three prisoners, the Washington Post said. Arrested in October 2015, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in April 2016.
He was a Christian pastor who had worked in China and the United States, according to Reuters.
Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, traveled to Pyongyang University to teach accounting for a month at a time until he was arrested in April 2017, according to the Post.
Kim Hak-song had been teaching rice-growing at the university, his wife told CNN. He was detained in May 2017.
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LISA CANNON GREEN (@lisaccgreen) is senior editor of Facts & Trends.