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Three Americans detained in North Korea transferred to hotel, activist says

By
Elizabeth Shim
Then CIA director Mike Pompeo meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, over Easter weekend. Pompeo requested the release of U.S. detainees in North Korea during the visit. Photo courtesy of the White House/UPI
Then CIA director Mike Pompeo meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, over Easter weekend. Pompeo requested the release of U.S. detainees in North Korea during the visit. Photo courtesy of the White House/UPI | License Photo

May 1 (UPI) -- The three remaining U.S. citizens detained in North Korea have been transferred out of labor camps in the country to an undisclosed location in Pyongyang, according to a South Korean activist on Tuesday.

Choi Sung-ryong, the representative of the group Family Assembly of those Abducted to North Korea, said Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song have been moved out of penitentiaries, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

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The report comes after newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, personally met with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.

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During the visit, Pompeo raised the issue of U.S. detainees.

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Choi said he confirmed the news of the transfers with sources in North Korea.

Activists in South Korea like Choi are able to access information from the North through a network of dissidents secretly working in the country and along the China-North Korea border.

"Today I spoke to a source in North Korea by phone," Choi said Tuesday. "North Korea's superior office in early April ordered the release of Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk, and Kim Hak-song, and since then they have been convalescing at a hotel outside Pyongyang, where they are also being educated."

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Choi also said they are in a program where they are engaging in North Korea "tourism."

Choi said he is aware the United States and North Korea are in negotiations for the detainees' release.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Kim Dong Chul, president of a company involved in international trade and hotel services, was sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges.

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South Korean analyst Shin Beom-chul said the North is likely preparing the detainees for release after the summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, EDaily reported Tuesday.

North Korea is likely to demand the lifting of sanctions in return, Shin said.

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