Sweden helping negotiate release of Americans held in North Korea

Sweden is helping negotiate the release of three Americans held captive in North Korea, sources with knowledge of the...

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 5:22 AM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 5:22 AM

Sweden is helping negotiate the release of three Americans held captive in North Korea, sources with knowledge of the negotiations tell CNN.

American citizens Kim Hak-song, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Dong Chul are being held by North Korean government.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho is in Stockholm for talks with his Swedish counterpart. Sources tell CNN that Sweden "engaged heavily" in the issue of the American detainees, and since Sweden is a protective power for the US, it also represents the country's interest in all talks with North Korea.

"Any movement on the issue of these detainees would be a huge deal for the US," one source with knowledge of negotiations said, adding that Sweden did not issue any ultimatum during the weekend talks; rather, they brought it up as something that would "move things in the right direction".

Sources said the issue has been at the center of discussions for some time, both at previous low-level meetings and during North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol's visit to Sweden in January.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk -- also known as Tony Kim -- were imprisoned in 2017 on suspicion of "hostile acts." Kim Dong Chul was arrested in 2015 and has been serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang-duk both worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a privately run school that has dozens of foreign faculty.

Kim Hak-song -- an ethnic Korean born in Jilin, China, and educated at a university in California -- was detained last May, North Korean state media reported at the time. The previous month, Kim Sang-duk had also been detained while trying to fly out of Pyongyang International Airport.

Kim Dong Chul is a South Korean-born American citizen who had been living in China when he was detained.

He told CNN in 2016 that he had been commuting daily to Rason, a special economic zone on the North Korean side of the border, where he served as president of a company involved in international trade and hotel services.

Kim Dong Chul told CNN's Will Ripley that he had been arrested after spying on behalf of "South Korean conservative elements." His claims were made in the presence of North Korean officials, and CNN cannot determine whether they were made under duress.

Previous US detainees

Another American, University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, died in Ohio in June 2017 shortly after being released from 17 months in a North Korean prison. Warmbier had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of committing a "hostile act" against the state after he reportedly removed a political banner from a hotel.

When Warmbier returned to the United States he had extensive brain damage that left him in a persistent vegetative state. North Korea initially claimed Warmbier had contracted botulism while in prison, but his parents told CNN their son had been "systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim Jong [Un] ... Kim, and his regime."

Since 2013, at least two other US citizens have also been detained for shorter periods. Merril Newman, who at the time of his October 2013 detention was an 85-year-old US veteran of the Korean War, was released two months later after a videotaped apology. American Jeffrey Fowle spent five months in detention in 2014 for allegedly leaving a Bible at a club for foreign sailors.

North Korea -- US summit

The White House announced earlier this month that Trump had accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to meet.

North Korea has yet to make an official comment on the proposed meeting. Trump accepted the invitation from Kim when a South Korean delegation delivered it verbally in Washington.

Should the leaders of the two nations sit down, it would be the first time that a sitting US President has met with the leader of the reclusive Asian nation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds215239
DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
Copiah56615
Leake54819
Jackson53316
Holmes52741
Wayne52112
Washington4969
Lee49316
Oktibbeha48624
Yazoo4736
Leflore47249
Lowndes45311
Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
Grenada3805
Monroe36729
Pike36712
Attala35223
Lafayette3524
Newton3289
Sunflower3066
Covington3025
Bolivar27713
Panola2706
Adams26718
Chickasaw25918
Tate2577
Jasper2506
Marion24811
Pontotoc2476
Noxubee2458
Pearl River24432
Winston2435
Clay24210
Claiborne23610
Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
Walthall1724
Yalobusha1617
Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
Itawamba1278
Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
Montgomery1222
Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
Dallas8198
Elmore81314
Baldwin6869
Etowah62513
Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
Russell4840
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4446
Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
Cherokee747
Lamar711
Fayette671
Geneva670
Clay582
Coosa551
Cleburne291
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 86°
Columbus
Few Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 98°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather