A look at the 3 Americans released by North Korea

People at a rail station in South Korea last week watch a TV news report showing portraits of three Americans — Kim Dong Chul, left, Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song — who were detained in North Korea.
(Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has left North Korea with three American detainees who were released ahead of an upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the U.S. president said in a tweet Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the three Americans, who were held by North Korea for alleged subversion, espionage and other unspecified hostile acts.

Tony Kim

This 2016 file photo provided by the family of Tony Kim shows him in California.
(Associated Press )

Tony Kim, 59, an academic who also goes by the Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained on April 22, 2017, at the Pyongyang airport on suspicion of committing “criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn” North Korea, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.


Kim taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology and previously taught at the University of Science and Technology in China’s Yanji province, which borders North Korea. Kim graduated from UC Riverside with a master’s degree in business administration in 1990.

He made at least seven trips to North Korea to teach. His wife accompanied him on the visit when he was arrested, though she was allowed to leave the country.

Kim Hak Song

Kim worked in agricultural development at an experimental farm run by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He was detained on May 6, 2017, and accused of engaging in unspecified “hostile acts” against North Korea, KCNA reported. It didn’t say whether his case was related to Tony Kim’s.

The university also said his detention wasn’t related to his work at the school.


Kim Dong Chul

Kim Dong Chul is escorted to his trial in Pyongyang, North Korea, in April 2016.
(Kim Kwang Hyon / Associated Press )

Kim, 64, is a South-Korean-born U.S. citizen and the longest-serving detainee among the three Americans.

Kim was arrested Oct. 2, 2015, at a hotel in the capital city of Pyongyang on suspicion of spying. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in April 2016. He had lived in Fairfax, Va., before moving to China’s Yanji province near the North Korean border. From there, he commuted daily to a special economic zone in the North Korean city of Rason, where he established a company dealing in international trade and hotel services.

Before his sentencing, Kim apologized for slandering North Korea’s leadership, collecting and passing confidential information to South Korea, and joining a smear campaign against the North’s human rights situation. Other foreigners have been presented at news conferences in North Korea and admitted crimes against the North, but many said after they were released that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.


“I’m asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me,” he told CNN in a 2016 interview.


11:05 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with Los Angeles Times staff reporting.

This article was originally published 8:45 a.m.