The Three Kims …

In the early hours of the morning on Thursday, May 10th, three men arrived back on U.S. soil after having been held in prisons in North Korea.  I am happy the men have been released and returned to their families, but I am disgusted by the way the situation was used as a political tool, so I had no intention of writing a post about it.  However, a friend, rawgod, asked me a series of questions about the situation that I didn’t know the answers to, yet they were good questions, so I reversed my original idea and am writing this post to answer those questions and provide whatever other information I can.

The questions:

  1. How many Americans are currently in NK prisons? How many of those are political prisoners? How many foreign nationals are in NK prisons? How many of those are political prisoners?

  2. Who are these three prisoners that were released? Are they poor people, middle class, or part of the American elite? What were their “crimes”? What were their sentences? Why were they chosen for release over those who were not chosen?

  3. What did the Orange Trumphole give up in order to get these three people released? Was it a “good faith” showing from Kim, or was it a trade, or what. Was money involved in the negotiation? We’re arms involved in any way in the negotiation?

  4. Who approached who to start this negotiation? Was the US negotiator the acter, or the reacter? Was there any other country involved in this negotiation? Who, and what part did they play?

First, let me start off by introducing these three men who, coincidentally all have the same surname, Kim, but are not related.

Kim Dong-chulKim Dong-chul is a businessman and naturalized American citizen from the Virginia suburbs of Washington. Arrested in October 2015, he had been sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in April 2016 after being convicted of spying and other offenses. He had confessed to committing crimes against the country and pleaded for mercy.  In January 2016, he was allowed to do an interview with CNN, in which he said he used to run a trading and hotel services company in Rason, a special economic zone that North Korea operates near its borders with China and Russia. He also said he had begun spying on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2013, by bribing North Korean residents to collect data about the North’s military and its nuclear program. He said he was arrested in October while he was meeting one of his local sources, a former North Korean soldier.

Kim Sang-dukKim Sang-duk (also known as Tony Kim) had just finished spending a month teaching accounting at a Christian-funded school, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, when in April 2017 he was arrested as he boarded a plane for home. He was charged with “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country.”

Kim Hak-songKim Hak-song was born in China near the North Korean border and emigrated to the United States in the 1990s.  He later returned to China, and later settled in Pyongyang, North Korea.  At the time of his arrest in May 2017, he had been volunteering at the agricultural research farm of the same school where Kim Sang-duk had taught.

These three were the last remaining hostages from the U.S. in North Korea.  The only other foreign nationals still being detained in North Korea are four South Koreans.  At least one had confessed to spying.  Over the years, North Korea has detained several Americans on accusations of illegal entry or spying and other “anti-state” crimes. It has often permitted them to speak to outside news media in interviews or at news conferences in Pyongyang.

They invariably confessed to committing crimes and apologized, asking North Korea for leniency and urging their governments to facilitate their release. But some told reporters after their release that officials had coerced them into making such statements.  I cannot say whether any of the three were guilty of the crimes with which they were charged, and I suspect we will never know for certain.

It does not appear that any concessions were exchanged for the release of the hostages.  It seems to be an act of ‘good faith’ on the part of Kim Jong-un, but … I have a suspicious nature, and somehow I cannot help but wonder if Kim, not Donald, is the one doing the manipulating.  The goals, I believe, that North Korea hopes to meet in his ‘summit’ with Trump in June are, a) to have the sanctions imposed by the U.S. lifted, and b) to have less U.S. involvement in the Korean Peninsula.

Pompeo clearly said that sanctions would not be lifted in a piecemeal fashion, but that Kim would have to fully de-nuclearize before sanctions would be lifted.  In any case, neither Kim nor Trump have a history of honesty and integrity, so from either perspective, I would be leery.  Seeing is believing. Based on the information I could find, the negotiations for the hostages were simply between Pompeo (acting at the direction of Trump, no doubt), and Kim.  South Korean or Japanese leaders may have had input, but I can find nothing to indicate this.

And now that I’ve given you all the pertinent facts I can glean, please allow me to editorialize for just a moment here.  I think it was crass, vulgar and in poor taste for Donald Trump to turn the hostages’ arrival back in the U.S. into a photo-opportunity, a back-patting (himself) session.  It was 3:00 a.m.  These men had been in-flight for hours, and before that had been in forced labour camps for between 1-3 years.  I’m sure all they wanted was to see their families, but no, instead they were forced to be put on display like a performing animal in a circus, and to pander to a megalomaniac.

trump takes creditTrump credits himself with the hostages’ release, but in truth, he had little to do with it.  He also said he had succeeded in getting them released, where Obama had failed.  But two of the three were taken hostage under Trump’s watch, in 2017.  Trump has also said he believes he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for getting the hostages released.  Here is a list of hostages released from North Korea under the Obama administration:

Euna Lee
Laura Ling
Robert Park
Aijalon Gomes
Eddie Yong Su Jun
Merrill Newman
Jeffrey Fowle
Kenneth Bae
Matthew Miller
Sandra Suh
Arturo Pierre Martinez 
hostages releasedKim Jong-un is a dictator and releasing the hostages was a means to an end.  It was a display of good faith, if you wish to call it such, but on Kim’s part, not Trump’s or Pompeo’s.  And it was not done out of kindness, but rather diplomatic negotiations.

38 thoughts on “The Three Kims …

  1. Dear Jill,

    It seems that there are more Kims in Korea than there are Johns in this country. I’m with Scottie on this one. These were involved in spying activities and this mo by the USA has become suspect.

    President Trump’s usage of these three men as a photo op is unconscionable and typical of his lack of character and any sense of decency. I have tried on more than one occasion to give President Trump, the benefit of the doubt but in each case, it was proven that he did not deserve it.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. Trump turned it into a media circus only to pat himself on the back. And his followers must have eaten it up. For him to declare he deserves a Nobel for this, it sickens me. He sickens me.

      Yes, I suspect that these three were not randomly picked out of a crowd to be accused, and that there was some basis for their arrest. But, I cannot make that assumption until there is some evidence … if I don’t have proof, I try not to say it. But I’m sure there is much more to the story that we will never know.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you ever so much Jill. I can use a computer, but not the way you and Gronda can. I owe you. But having said that, I do have trouble believing North Korea has no other foreign nationals in its prisons. It’s not like a dictator of Kim’s suspicious nature to have all kinds of people arrested .for spying, or other, pardon the expression, trumped-up charges. That is one stat I do not trust.
    But great catch on the Obsma-Trump comparison. If there are no other American nationals in North Korean jails, the Dejected Towerclimber will never be able to beat Obama’s numbers. Poor Trumpie! How many more releases can he conjure if there are none there to release?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks rawgod! Yes, I was also uncomfortable with that data, but … I researched it for over an hour and kept coming up empty from reliable sources. You have to remember that North Korea is a communist country and not always open and forthcoming, so there could be others, but I won’t make a statement that there are, without proof, and I just don’t have it. How will he top Obama’s record? Good question! Two possibilities. One, change the facts … I mean, they are only pesky facts, right? Remember Kellyanne and her declaration that sometimes there are “alternative facts”. Or two, he could send a bunch of people to North Korea to get captured so that he could free them and be a ‘hero’. 🤢

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had read the post where these questions were asked and thought it would be interesting to know the answers. You have not disappointed with your research that provided the answers. Scottie’s comment is quite thought provoking too. The line that says “That’s the difference between class and ass” is perfect! Thank-you for an enlightening post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank YOU for reading and for your kind words! Yes, Scottie did make some good points. I liked that line, too … I almost took it out, for I try to avoid foul language on this blog, but sometimes it’s the only way to make a point, and in this case, it was perfect! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great research! Thank you for taking the time to write this! I do not see that Trump should get any credit for these releases. I totally agree with you that turning it into a photo-op just reaffirms Trump’s need for praise and self-glorification. How much longer must we endure this President!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! Yes, it was cheap and tacky, but so very Trump-like. Turn everything into an excuse for him to pat himself on the back. He thrives on praise and admiration, and his followers give it to him in spades. How much longer? Well, if Mueller’s investigation can tie everything together AND IF we can turn at least one chamber of Congress around in the November mid-terms, perhaps only less than a year. BUT … otherwise, all bets are off, for he registered to run in 2020 the day after the inauguration, and the way things are headed with his lemmings, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won. The democrats really need to get busy on a very strong, clean candidate for 2020. I don’t see any on the horizon at the moment. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your post Jill, but a couple thoughts I have. Historically one of the most grabbed people in China and North Korea are religious people trying to smuggle in bibles and preach to the populations. Both were considered crimes by the sovereign governments. I know this because as a teen I was a S.D.A. and we often had special offerings of money to do this work. Second doesn’t any but me find it strange the history of at least two these men converting their citizenship to the USA then running to North Korea. That yells spy to me. It is one of the things our own intelligence people look for. We know we have to have someone of that ethnic background to be effective in that country, a white redneck is not going to accomplish much. Our country has been very successful in getting our nationals out of that country once they make charges against the person. So I think this was a whole lot of wool pulled over the eyes of the US population and maybe the world. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Scottie! Yes, in my research I did find that many of the political prisoners had been arrested for ‘illegal religion’, but since it didn’t apply to these three, I didn’t mention it. And yes, I am fairly certain these three weren’t completely innocent of spying … but I don’t think it can ever, at this point, be proven or disproven, and I took the high ground … presuming innocence until there is evidence of guilt. What may Americans fail to understand is that once you are in a certain foreign countries, you are watched and you are considered suspect if you so much as glance sideways. And to a large extent, if you are arrested and accused of a crime, there may be little the U.S. can do for you. But you’re right … we have been successful to a large degree, and these three were the last of the western hostages, as far as I could find. Otto Warmbeir was, of course, the exception.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Get educated about these released prisoners … ‘Kim Jong-un is a dictator and releasing the hostages was a means to an end. It was a display of good faith, if you wish to call it such, but on Kim’s part, not Drumpf’s or Pompeo’s. And it was not done out of kindness, but rather diplomatic negotiations.’
    So there …

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The family name Kim, is of the political ruling class. Since WW2, when like Vietnam took over with some adversity, in North Korea. The American backed south, encouraged South Korea to fight their brothers and sisters in the north. Wasn’t the North, ancestral home of Kubla Khan? Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 2 people

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