“As everybody is aware,” President Trump tweeted back on May 2 ,“the past administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!” Those who stayed tuned got the news from the president’s tweet Wednesday.
“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.”
North Korea released Kim Dong-chul, 64, who owned a business in Rason, a special economic zone of North Korea. The Communist regime arrested the businessman in October 2015 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage and subversion.
Tony Kim, 59, was arrested during a month-long assignment as a guest lecturer at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). In April, 2017, as he awaited to board a flight, Kim was arrested for “committing criminal acts of hostility” aimed to overthrow North Korea.
Agricultural consultant Kim Hak-song, who also taught at PUST, was detained about the same time. The regime provided no details of the charges, which to all but the willfully blind were bogus.
“We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return," the three U.S. citizens said in a statement. "God bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”
At this writing, President Trump awaits their arrival, but the story got scant attention in the old line media.
Well into Wednesday, for example, the Los Angeles Times headlined its story “Trump announces North Korea’s apparent release of three U.S. hostages.” The New York Times opted to bash Mike Pompeo for not being present when Trump nixed the Iran deal. So in the typical pattern, President Trump gets no credit for any accomplishment.
The previous administration, by contrast, did not secure the release of Kim Dong-chul and failed to gain a summit with Kim Jong-un. Trump took a tougher approach, at one point making it clear that if “Rocket Man,” continued to lob missiles in our direction, he would essentially incinerate North Korea and even deployed forces ready to take care of business.
By all indications, that was why Trump gained the meeting with Kim Jong-un and the hereditary Stalinist regime released Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song. These were not the first releases Trump had achieved.
Last June, North Korea released Otto Warmbier, sentenced to 15 years hard labor for taking a political banner from a Pyongyang hotel. On his return, Warmbier, 22, was awake but unresponsive and doctors said he had suffered loss of brain tissue. Shortly after his return the American slipped into a coma and died.
For the Huffington Post it was a case of “white privilege,” and on Comedy Central Larry Wilmore lampooned Warmbier as a dumb frat boy, mocking his name as “warm beer.” So the three newly released captives might expect indifference at best or mockery at worst.
The president also secured the release of Caitlan Coleman and her husband Joshua Boyle from the Haqqani network, an ally of the Taliban. They had been abducted in 2012 and moved to Pakistan, Trump told Pakistan if they didn’t rescue them, the United States would do so directly. Pakistan duly complied.
The Trump administration blocked the extradition of former CIA agent Sabrina De Sousa, who had been tortured in Egypt. The president also played a role in the release of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi.
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were accused of stealing sunglasses from a store in Hangzhou, China. President Trump had a word with Zi Jinping and China duly released the trio. “Be careful,” Trump tweeted, “there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”
Most Americans doubtless welcome the return of Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak-song. On the other hand, many may remain unaware of key back stories.
For the American left, the guidebook on Korea is The Hidden History of the Korean War, which charges that the South Korea invaded North Korea, a reversal of reality and the official Soviet position of the time. The left still venerates author I.F. Stone as an independent journalist, but as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vasiliev showed in Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, Stone was in fact a Soviet propagandist who took money from the KGB.
In the 1950-1953 Korean conflict, American captives were transferred to the Soviet Union. Guards spotted American prisoners in the gulag as late as 1983. Nothing close to an accounting has ever been achieved.
Stalinist regimes, meanwhile, hold no monopoly on taking Americans hostage. On November 4, 1979, Iranian “students” invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, took more than 60 American hostages and held them for 444 days. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini freed the hostages on January 21, 1981, the first day of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Ronald Reagan wasn’t at all like president Jimmy Carter. President Trump isn’t much like POTUS 44. So let freedom ring.