- Donald Trump greeted three former captives Thursday morning after their release from North Korea.
- One, Kim Dong-chul, had been imprisoned since October 2015, when Obama was still president.
- Captives tend to have almost no access to the outside world, so he may well not have known about any political developments since then.
- When Kim was captured, almost nobody thought Trump had any chance of winning the election.
- Getting caught up on two-and-a-half years of US politics in a day or so would be bewildering to say the least.
One of the three US citizens released from captivity by North Korea had been detained for so long he probably had no idea Donald Trump was president.
Kim Dong-chul was arrested in October 2015, while Barack Obama still occupied the White House and most serious political thinkers were predicting electoral success for Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, or Ted Cruz.
Trump had been formally in the running for the White House since June 16, 2015, but was one of 17 Republicans in a crowded primary.
News organisations like The Huffington Post were categorising Trump campaign stories as “entertainment,” and pundits were openly laughing at the idea that he could win. It still seemed unlikely right until November 2016, when it actually happened.
Kim Dong-chul, a businessman who lives in Fairfax, Virginia, would likely have had no access to outside information while in captivity, making it perfectly plausible that he did not know who had won the 2016 election.
Though he likely found this out before the moment he met Trump on the tarmac early Thursday morning with his fellow detainees, it must still have been a bewildering experience to be caught up on a bizarre two-and-a-half years of politics in a few days.
Anna Fifield, the Washington Post’s Tokyo editor, made the observation while watching the landing at Joint Base Andrews, just outside Washington, D.C.
Kim Dong-chul (front) was detained a year before the 2016 election so he probably didn’t know until yesterday that Donald Trump is president. pic.twitter.com/Lkz1glQpob
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) May 10, 2018
Kim Dong-chul made a victory sign with both hands in front of the news cameras as he stepped off the plane with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In a joint statement with his fellow former captives, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul said: “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.”
Trump called the former detainees “incredible people” and said their release “was a very important thing to all of us.”
“This is a special night for these three, really great people,” Trump said as he shook their hands. “And congratulations on being in this country.”
“It was nice letting them go before the meeting,” Trump continued. “Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did.”
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