Watch CBSN Live

Son of American detained in North Korea speaks out

As President Trump touts his administration's ongoing negotiations with North Korea, the son of one of the Americans detained in that country is preparing for semester finals in Southern California and waiting for good news.

"We are hopeful," Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, told CBS News on Friday.

Mr. Trump has said that the administration is "doing very well with the hostages" and is in "constant contact with the leadership." Unverified reports have indicated that the release of the prisoners could come as soon as this weekend. 

What is Kim doing this weekend? "I guess waiting," he said tentatively. 

When Kim initially found out that his father had been taken, he was stunned.

"I asked myself why, what happened, what is the reason, lots of different thoughts went through my head. Will I see him again?" Kim, who is studying to become an elementary school teacher, explained. "Part of me really thought he did not do anything wrong, he won't be held very long."

Now more than a year has passed since the 59-year-old was detained by North Korean authorities in April of 2017. He was departing North Korea after teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) for a few months. 

The older Kim had been a visiting professor there more than half a dozen times. PUST is the only privately run university in North Korea and was founded in 2010. He was living in China at the time and was heading home when he was arrested and accused of committing unspecified criminal acts with the goal of overthrowing the government.

Due to privacy laws, the State Department cannot release very much information about the three Americans detained to their families or to the public. This week, Mr. Trump tweeted details about the detentions that were news to the family.

"As everybody is aware, 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!" Mr. Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

This was the first time a U.S. official has indicated that the three Americans in North Korea were held in a labor camp.

"That is news for us for sure if that is accurate," said the family's lawyer, Randall Brandt. "We have no reason to believe he has been tried and convicted and put in a prison camp. We just don't know."

Sol Kim has become a vocal advocate for the release of his father. Little attention was paid to the case until rather recently, which was enormously difficult for the 27-year-old and his family, who wondered if anyone still remembered who he was.

Another challenge came when Otto Warmbier came home from North Korea last year and died less than a week later. The 22-year-old college student had been in North Korea for 17 months when he was released in a vegetative state.

"The thought crossed my mind that my dad could come like that," said Kim. "It hurt to see just the condition he was in and coming home and six days later passing away."

Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song, two of the three Americans detained in North Korea, were detained last year when Trump was president. The third American detained in North Korea, Dong Chul Kim, was arrested in October 2015. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

All three Americans met with Joe Yun, the State Department's top diplomat for North Korea, when he came to bring home then-detainee Warmbier. Kim's family was told he looked healthy at the time but given very few details beyond that. The news was comforting, but now they just want him home.

"We are hoping that our Dad can be a grandfather soon," says Kim, noting that his sister-in-law is expecting a child later this summer.

View CBS News In