The tragic death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier — who was detained in North Korea and sentenced to years of hard labor, only to be released in a persistent vegetative state — has dominated headlines in recent days.
The incident has further troubled the negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea and brought into focus three other Americans who remain detained in the hermit kingdom, still living miserable lives.
The first case is that of Kim Dong Chul, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Fairfax, Virginia, who was arrested on charges of spying for South Korea. His detention first made headlines in January 2016, after which he confessed he was a spy for South Korea. It's unclear whether the statement was made under duress.
A North Korean defector, Ma Young-ae, living in New York, said Kim was a Christian missionary who sent supplies from China to help North Koreans. However, he was found guilty of espionage and subversion, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in April.
The next case is that of Kim Sang-duk, a professor of accounting at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He was detained at the Pyongyang International Airport on April 22, and the North Korean government claimed Kim was “intercepted for committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”
However, the chancellor of the university claims the man was involved in “some other activities outside PUST such as helping an orphanage.” A South Korean news agency further endorsed this statement, saying that Kim was involved in humanitarian aid work in the country.
While his wife, who was also detained, was sent back to the U.S., Kim still remains under detention.
The last detainee suffering in North Korea is Kim Hak-song, an ethnic Korean born in China who moved to the U.S. in the 1990s. Kim is also a teacher at PUST. He was detained in North Korea on suspicion of “hostile acts” and CNN reports he was very interested in helping North Korea improve its agricultural output.
Check out the video above to learn more about the detainees.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters