Family of imprisoned Christian in North Korea hopes Trump–Kim summit will lead to release

Tony Kim, one of the three Americans being held captive by North Korea, is seen in this handout photo taken in California in 2016, released to Reuters by the family of Tony Kim March 11, 2018. | Courtesy of the family of Tony Kim/Handout via REUTERS

A family is hoping that the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will lead to the release of a Christian professor, who detained in April last year for alleged anti-state activities.

Tony Kim, one of three Americans being detained in North Korea, had taught accounting at Pyongyang University for Science and Technology (PUST), but he was suddenly arrested on April 22, 2017 as he was on his way back home to the U.S.

"My father had just finished his semester as a professor in North Korea when he was arrested at the airport," Kim's eldest son, Sol, explained in a YouTube video. "No explanation was given. My family and I have had no contact with him since," he added.

According to CBN News, Kim was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for anti-state activities and trying to overthrow the government.

A month later, North Korean authorities arrested another PUST instructor named Kim Hak Song while he was traveling by train from Pyongyang to Chinese border town Dandong. A message that was said to be from Kim Hak Song posted on the website of a Korean-Brazilian church in Sao Paulo in 2015 indicated that he was a Christian missionary trying to help North Koreans become self-sufficient.

In 2015, Kim Dong Chul, a Korean-American Missionary was arrested and later sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for subversion. According to a report from North Korea's official KCNA news agency, Kim has stated that he had set up a business in the communist regime's special economic zone of Rason in 2008.

Although there are no indications that the summit will lead to the release of the three detainees, it has raised the hopes of Sol Kim. "I am hopeful. It is hard to say any other feeling," he told Reuters.

He noted that U.S. officials have previously told him that his father's plight will be raised at appropriate times. He said that he is hoping that it would be one of the top priorities during the face-to-face meeting. "As a family, any news, any update and any progress is good progress and it is hopeful," said Sol Kim.

Regular talks have been held between the U.S. government and Kim's family. but there has been no contact since the proposed summit was announced.

Trump's decision to meet with Kim Jong Un had surprised even members of his own administration, but U.S. officials defended the decision saying the U.S. is expecting the communist regime to stop its nuclear and missile testing in advance of any meeting.