Kim Dong Chul (businessman)

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Kim Dong Chul
Born1953 (age 66–67)
Country North Korea
DetainedOctober 2015
ReleasedMay 9, 2018
Days in detention~950
SentenceTen years of hard labor
Reason for detentionEspionage[1]

Kim Dong Chul (born 1953, South Korea) is a South Korea-born businessman and naturalized United States citizen who was imprisoned by the government of North Korea (DPRK) in October 2015 and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for alleged espionage.[1] Kim was one of three U.S. citizens imprisoned in that country to be released on May 9, 2018.[2] The others were Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk (arrested on April 21, 2017), and Kim Hak-Song (arrested on May 7, 2017).[1][3][4]

Life before captivity[edit]

Kim Dong Chul is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Korean origin.[5] Once a resident of Fairfax, Virginia,[6][7][8][9][10] Kim had been living in China with his wife, and owns a business in a special economic zone of the DPRK.[11]

Imprisonment in North Korea[edit]

It has been claimed that Kim was a Christian, and involved in missionary work.[12]

Kim was arrested in October 2015.[1][5] His status was not publicly known until January 2016, DPRK introduced him to a CNN crew visiting Pyongyang. CNN was allowed to interview Kim but only through an interpreter.[11][13] In March 2016, he appeared at a government-arranged news conference in Pyongyang and "apologized for trying to steal military secrets in collusion with South Koreans"; the South Korean authorities have denied any involvement.[1] In April 2016, North Korea sentenced Kim to 10 years of hard labor for espionage and other crimes.[1]

Kim's arrest and captivity, according to Russell Goldman of The New York Times, followed a pattern also seen with other detentions of U.S. nationals by North Korea: "A forced confession, a show trial, a sentence to years of hard labor with little chance of appeal."[1]


On May 9, 2018, several news outlets reported that Kim and fellow American detainees Kim Sang-duk and Kim Hak Song had been granted amnesty following a meeting between Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang to discuss details of the planned summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.[14][15][2] The 3 men, alongside Pompeo, landed at Andrews Air Force Base shortly before 3am eastern on May 10, thereby concluding a 17-month struggle by the Trump Administration to secure their release.[16][2] A subsequent joint statement by the 3 men, and released via the State Department, states: 'We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home...We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.'[17]

Admission of espionage[edit]

In an interview with NK News published on July 29 2019, Kim admitted that he was spying for the American CIA and South Korean NIS since 2009.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Russell Goldman, Imprisoned in North Korea: The Cases of 3 Americans, New York Times (April 25, 2017).
  2. ^ a b c Gaouette, Nicole (May 9, 2018). "Pompeo's 13 hours in North Korea". Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  3. ^ Bacon, John. "North Korea seizes another American citizen as crisis heats up". USA Today. USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  4. ^, The Washington Times. "North Korea releases U.S. detainees, bows to another Trump demand". The Washington Times. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Ivan Watson, Yuli Yang & Zahra Ullah, North Korea detains US citizen as tensions rise, CNN (April 24, 2017).
  6. ^ Brian Murphy (March 25, 2016). "North Korea displays detainee identified as American accused of spying". Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  7. ^ "US man Kim Dong Chul 'admits stealing North Korea secrets'". BBC News. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Man Detained in North Korea Confesses to Spying for South". The New York Times. March 26, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  9. ^ Ripley, Will. "North Korean official: Korean-American confessed to espionage charges". CNN. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Kim, Jack; Pearson, James. "Korean-American in North Korea confesses to stealing secrets: media". Reuters. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley and James Griffiths (January 11, 2016). "North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN". CNN. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Defector: Korean-American Detained in N. Korea Was Pastor". Voice of America. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "American citizen Kim Dong Chul reportedly arrested by North Korea, accused of spying". CBS News. January 11, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  14. ^ Alastair Jamieson (May 9, 2018). "American detainees freed from North Korea, Trump says". Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  15. ^ CNN Wire (May 9, 2018). "Three Americans released from North Korean custody". Q13 FOX (KCPQ). Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  16. ^ Rogers, Katie (May 10, 2018). "Trump Greets 3 American Detainees Freed From North Korea". Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  17. ^ Lee, Matthew; et al. (May 10, 2018). "President Trump Welcomes U.S. Detainees Freed from North Korea". Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  18. ^