World Bulletin / News Desk
Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the release of Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Dong-chu in brief remarks to reporters alongside the former detainees, saying it was "a wonderful thing" he released them ahead of a historic summit aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
"This is a special night for these three really great people, and congratulations on being in this country," Trump said. "These are great people. They've been through a lot. It's a great honor. But the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons."
Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Dong-chul were ushered into a military medical bus after being greeted by Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the leaders’ wives. No family or friends were at Joint Base Andrews to greet them, but they nonetheless appeared jubilant at their arrival.
"It's like a dream and we are very, very happy," Kim Dong-chul said in translated remarks.
Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, had been held captive on suspicions of carrying out "hostile acts" since 2017, while Kim Dong-chul has been in North Korean custody since 2015. At the time of his release he was serving a 10-year sentence of hard labor.
The trio released a statement via the State Department thanking Trump and his administration for their release shortly after they touched down in Alaska for a refueling stop on their way to Washington.
"We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home," they said. "We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world."