Koreatown pastor 1 of 3 Americans released from North Korean custody

KOREATOWN, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A pastor from a church in Koreatown and a professor from Riverside are two of the three prisoners who made it out of North Korea alive.

Those who knew the men before they were imprisoned for a year anxiously awaited their safe return to U.S. soil.

A ministry professor remembers the fateful arrest of one of the detainees - former student, Pastor Kim Hak Song.

"We heard that and we prayed for him at our school, for his safety and for his safe return," Professor Seonmook Shin said.

Song graduated from Koreatown's World Mission University in 2004 and went on to become a senior pastor at nearby Oriental Mission Church. Shin said his former student always wanted to return to China and North Korea to help others.

"Kim was very hardworking, a hardworking student. He's a very sincere Christian, and I think he's a really good member of the church," Shin said.

But in May 2017, Song was accused of anti-state activities and arrested. It was just one month after the arrest of Tony Kim - a professor from Riverside - also known as Kim Sang-duk.

Kim's family said they are grateful for his release as well as the other two who were detained.

The release of the three Korean-American prisoners is a promising sign ahead of a historic summit between North Korea and the U.S.

President Donald Trump said the return of all three men is a sign of improving relations.

The men arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland overnight. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, along with their wives, were there to welcome them back to the U.S.
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