By Ray Downs – UPI
“On behalf of the American people, WELCOME HOME!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
The president and first lady Melania Trump greeted Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul at the door of the airplane.
“It’s like a dream and we’re very, very happy,” Kim Dong-chul said through a translator moments after exiting the plane.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for releasing the prisoners and said it was a positive prelude to upcoming peace talks with North Korea.
“We will see what happens. We have a meeting scheduled in a very short period of time. We will see if we can do something,” Trump told reporters. “I think we’ll have a very big success.”
“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,” they said. “We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”
Family members of the detainees were not present at the greeting due to U.S. government protocol requiring that the detainees be debriefed by intelligence officials upon arrival.
Each of the American detainees were arrested within the last three years. Kim Dong-chul, a businessman, was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in April 2016 on spying charges. Kim Hak-song, an agriculture teacher at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was arrested in May 2017. Tony Kim, an accounting teacher at PUST, was arrested in April 2017.