On May 9th, Trump tweeted, “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.”
All three detainees are returning to the U.S. before Trump and Kim Jong-un meet face-to-face, in the first ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and the leader of North Korea.
Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, was detained in April 2017, while briefly teaching at a university in North Korea. According to the university, authorities detained Kim before a flight and accused him of attempting to overthrow the government.
Kim Dong-chul was arrested in October 2015. In a 2016 interview with CNN, in the presence of a North Korean official, Kim said he was meeting a source to obtain a USB stick and camera to gather military secrets. After a one-day trial, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on espionage charges.
Kim Hak-song was also working at the Pyongyang University and was detained in May 2017. He is an agricultural expert whose wife said he was teaching rice-growing. She said he was innocent and was trying to help North Koreans learn to feed themselves.