His parents filed a lawsuit against the North Korean government on May 3.
The three Korean Americans currently detained in North Korea are Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song, and Kim Dong-chul. Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song both taught at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a university founded in 2010 by a Christian Korean-American entrepreneur, before their arrest. They were detained for “espionage” and “hostile acts,” respectively. Kim Dong-chul is a Christian pastor who was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in North Korea in 2016, on charges of spying.
Negotiations are ongoing to release the three detainees. President Trump wrote about the negotiations on Twitter on May 2, concluding with “Stay tuned!”
As the United States prepares for a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, it remains to be seen what balance will be achieved between human rights and denuclearization.
A State Department spokesperson has issued a statement promising that the U.S. government will continue to press for accountability for human rights abuses. This includes efforts to increase the flow of information into one of the most isolated countries in the world.
But it could be a question of timing, especially when it comes to denuclearization, said John S. Park, director of the Korea Working Group at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“Everyone is cautiously optimistic. Launching a denuclearization mechanism is a critical initial step. The subsequent steps are much more complex — verification and inspection actions,” he said in an interview with the Harvard Gazette on April 30.
“It’s not going to be a function of North Korea giving up the nuclear weapons all at once, but rather, as part of a process. And this is where the timescale becomes a big focus of the diplomacy and negotiations ahead,” he said.
“From a North Korean perspective, the longer the process, the better it is for them. But from the U.S. perspective, given the rapid development of nuclear, and particularly the intercontinental ballistic missile capability last year, the timescale is much shorter.”
As the process moves forward and developments continue, Catholic leaders have called for prayers for the peninsula.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, apostolic administrator of Pyongyang and archbishop of Seoul, said that he prays a rosary every day for North Korea.
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In a radio interview with Catholic Pyeonghwa Broadcasting following the Inter-Korean summit, the cardinal said he prays that he will someday be able to celebrate Mass together with North Korean Catholics.
For now, he asks Catholics to join him in praying for “authentic peace” and to not fall into despair or complacency.