The United States government is studying reports that three Americans held in North Korea have been moved from a labor camp.
Reuters news service reported that an unnamed American official said the three have been put in a hotel near the North Korean capital Pyongyang.
The move comes as both sides continue efforts to plan a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The American official said there was no immediate confirmation on a change in the conditions under which the Americans are being held.
A possible sign of goodwill
Trump administration officials have pressed for the release of the Korean-Americans as a sign of goodwill before the planned meeting.
Former New York City Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the three would be released on Thursday.
Trump made note of the three Americans held in North Korea late Wednesday on Twitter. He suggested there might be more information about their situation soon. “Stay tuned!” he tweeted.
The summit between Trump and Kim is expected to take place in late May or early June.
Trump would be the third world leader to meet with Kim Jong Un this year. In March, Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. And last week, he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom.
The North Korean leader, who took power in 2011, had never met with top officials of any country before this year.
The three not heard from since June
The three Korean-Americans are Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul. They have been held in a North Korean labor camp.
South Korean media reported Wednesday that a South Korean activist said North Korea had moved the three in early April.
A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said she could not confirm the reports. However, she added, “The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We are working to see U.S. citizens who are detained in North Korea come home as soon as possible.”
The last time any American official had met with the Korean-Americans was in June 2017.
Tony Kim was detained on April 22, 2017 at Pyongyang’s airport. He had been teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology known as PUST. Kim Hak-song also had been working at PUST. He was detained in May of last year. Kim Dong-chul was arrested in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on charges of spying.
Tony Kim’s family told Reuters, through a spokesman, that they were hopeful but had not heard anything from Kim since last June.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Mario Ritter adapted this Reuters story for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA News. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
goodwill –n. an action or gift that adds to the reputation of the giver
summit –n. a meeting between the leaders of two or more governments
welfare –n. the wellbeing of people
priority –n. something that is more important than other things
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