The death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier has brought a wave of sorrow and a new stumbling block to any sort of negotiations between the United States and North Korea. But as the United States determines how to retaliate, if at all, there is another enormous risk to consider: the three U.S. citizens still detained by the country’s authoritarian regime.
North Korea revealed on May 7 that Kim Hak-song had been detained on charges such as espionage and crimes against the state, making him the third American now being held and the 10th in total to be detained by North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Un. Only one country has detained more Americans than North Korea: Iran, where five Americans are missing or detained.
Although Donald Trump tweeted during the campaign that similar detentions would not happen if he became president, Kim Hak-song is also the second American to be detained since Trump’s inauguration.
Well, Iran has done it again. Taken two of our people and asking for a fortune for their release. This doesn’t happen if I’m president!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016
As the Trump administration works to secure their release and thwart the North’s nuclear and missile program, it will have to weigh pushing the regime too far on bringing these three men home. Here is what we know about the U.S. citizens detained in North Korea.
The American who has been held the longest in North Korea at this time is Kim Dong-chul. A naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in South Korea, he is a businessman in his mid-60s who at one time lived in Fairfax, Virginia.
He was living in China near the border with North Korea and working in a special economic zone in North Korea as the president of a trade and hospitality company. After years of openly crossing the border, he was detained in October 2015, accused of being a spy for South Korea and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.
He has a wife and two daughters in China. His…