Three U.S. citizens, including a UC Riverside graduate, who have been imprisoned in North Korea were on their way home to the United States Wednesday in what is being viewed as a key diplomatic victory for the Trump administration.
Tony Kim, 59, also known as Kim San-duk, earned a master’s degree from UC Riverside in 1990 and was detained at Pyongyang airport on April 22, 2017, for alleged “criminal acts of hostility” aimed at overturning the North Korean government.
His family has been waging a social media campaign to continue pushing for the release of Kim and the two other detainees — Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong-chul. All three are on their way back to the United States, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence expected to greet them at 2 a.m. Eastern time when they arrive at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Tony Kim’s family issued a statement hailing their release.
“We are very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees,” according to the family. “We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home. We also want to thank the president for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return.
“We appreciate all of the support and prayers of friends and even strangers during this challenging year. You are dear to our hearts. We ask that you continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all who are still being held. Thank you.”
According to his family, Tony Kim was teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, as was fellow detainee Kim Hak-song, who is also believed to have Southern California roots. He is reported to be an ordained evangelical Christian pastor affiliated with Oriental Mission Church in Los Angeles.
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