Before Trump Met Kim: Six Other American Leaders Who Visited North Korea

Trump may end up being the first sitting president to visit the hermit kingdom, but he sure won't be the first president to see North Korea from the inside

FILE - In this July 11, 1993, file photo, then U.S. President Bill Clinton, center, talks with American soldiers behind sandbags at a guard post in Camp Oulette in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Clinton visited Panmunjom when the North Korean nuclear crisis first flared.  (AP Photo/Greg Gibson, File)
GREG GIBSON/AP

President Donald Trump could become the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea if plans for a summit with Kim Jong Un hold. But other prominent American political figures have visited Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, in the past, many with a similar goal of trying to stop its nuclear program.

Carter makes history

Jimmy Carter made history as the first former U.S. president to visit North Korea in June 1994. Carter's unofficial four-day visit included a meeting with then-North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. His intervention headed off a potential conflict and helped seal an aid-for-disarmament agreement that lasted nearly a decade.

When Madeleine met Kim

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2000, file photo, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il, left, shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Pae Kha Hawon Guest House in Pyongyang. U.S. President Donald Trump could become the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea if plans for a summit with Kim Jong Un hold. But other prominent American political figures have visited Pyongyang in the past, many with a similar goal of trying to stop its nuclear program. Albright is the highest-level U.S. official to visit North Korea while in office (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, Pool, File)
David Guttenfelder/AP

Madeleine Albright is the highest-level U.S. official to visit North Korea while in office. As secretary of state, she met in October 2000 with leader Kim Jong Il, the father of the current leader. They discussed topics from missiles and terrorism to human rights. Albright's visit pushed U.S.-North Korea relations in a positive direction.

Bill Clinton's surprise

On August 4, 2009, former President Bill Clinton arrived unannounced in North Korea on a mission to free two detained American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. His visit came at a time when tensions were high over North Korea's nuclear program. Then-leader Kim Jong Il granted a "special pardon," freeing the two jailed journalists after he and Clinton held talks.

Carter returns - twice

FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2010 file photo released by China's Xinhua news agency, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, center left, poses with American Aijalon Gomes, center right, at Pyongyang airport, North Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump could become the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea if plans for a summit with Kim Jong Un hold. But other prominent American political figures have visited Pyongyang in the past, many with a similar goal of trying to stop its nuclear program. Carter returned in August 2010 to bring home a jailed Bostonian, Aijalon Gomes, who had entered the communist country illegally from China. He had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor in prison. In April 2011, Carter arrived in Pyongyang again, this time with other former world leaders to discuss a food shortage in the country and to try to restart talks to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Yao Ximeng)
Yao Ximeng/AP

Carter returned in August 2010 to bring home a jailed Bostonian, Aijalon Gomes, who had entered the communist country illegally from China. He had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor in prison. In April 2011, Carter arrived in Pyongyang again, this time with other former world leaders to discuss a food shortage in the country and to try to restart talks to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Joseph Yun and Otto Warmbier

 Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016.
KYODO/REUTERS

Most recently, Joseph Yun, then the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, traveled to North Korea in June 2017 to try to bring home an imprisoned American college student, Otto Warmbier. Yun was able to secure Warmbier's release, but he was comatose and died shortly after his return to America.