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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Three Americans held in North Korea to be released 

The announcement follows weeks of goodwill gestures between the US and North Korea

People watch a TV news report screen showing portraits of three Americans, Kim Dong Chul, left, Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song, right, detained in the North Korea at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon / AP
People watch a TV news report screen showing portraits of three Americans, Kim Dong Chul, left, Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song, right, detained in the North Korea at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon / AP

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Thursday that three Americans held in North Korea are set to be released.

We got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today," Mr Giuliani announced on television.

President Donald Trump had teased on Wednesday that North Korea may make a goodwill gesture before his planned summit with Mr Kim when he tweeted of a possible update soon on the status of three detained Americans.

Here's a brief look at the US citizens.

KIM DONG CHUL

Mr Kim, a South Korean-born US citizen, has been held the longest. The former Virginia resident was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of espionage. He reportedly ran a trade and hotel service company in Rason, a special economic zone on North Korea's border with Russia.

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KIM HAK SONG

Mr Kim Hak worked in agricultural development at an experimental farm run by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The university is the only privately funded college in North Korea and was founded in 2010 with donations from Christian groups. He was detained last May for alleged anti-state activities.

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TONY KIM

Tony Kim, who also uses the name Kim Sang-duk, was detained a year ago at the Pyongyang airport. He taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He was accused of committing unspecified criminal acts intended to overthrow the government.

North Korea has a history of detaining Americans and using them as bargaining chips against the United States.

From journalists to missionaries, most Americans detained by the North have been released after high-profile interventions.

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Read more:

North Korean media hails Kim Jong-un's southern visit

Korea's historic summit — in pictures

North Korea vows to shut down nuclear site

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President Moon Jae-in has also benefited from the thaw in relations between the US and its northern neighbour with a record support from the South Korean public in the wake of a historic summit with his North Korean counterpart, pollsters said Thursday.

More than three in four voters approved of Mr Moon, according to pollster Realmeter – an all-time high for any South Korean president at the end of their first year in office.

Realmeter said the result reflected "mounting public expectations for the North's denuclearisation and the establishment of peace on the Korean peninsula" following Mr Moon's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday.

The president's support rose more than eight points to 78.3 per cent in the week following the summit, where the two leaders agreed to work towards a permanent peace treaty.

Since his May 2017 election, Mr Moon had projected a stable and down-to-earth style while communicating closely with voters, Jeong Han-wool of public opinion firm Hankook Research told AFP.

Mr Jeong said President Moon's popularity was likely to continue through next month's local elections, which Mr Moon's ruling Democratic Party is widely tipped to dominate.

"Moon's approval ratings, which were relatively low around the end of last year, surged back up following the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics", he said.