Outrageous news out of North Korea today. Two US journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling (sister of fellow journalist Lisa Ling), who were arrested in March by the North Korean government for allegedly crossing over into their territory (while reporting on human trafficking for Current TV), were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp for their alleged crimes. Because North Korea does not feel the need to allow outsiders to have any information about their dealings, very little information about the trial (which lasted only 4 days) is known … what is known is that the women have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a prison camp and have no course of appeal. Without outside intervention, the women are doomed to their sentence:
North Korea convicted two American journalists and sentenced them Monday to 12 years of hard labor for crossing into its territory, intensifying the reclusive nation’s confrontation with the United States. The Obama administration said it would pursue ”all possible channels” to win the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV media venture. There are fears Pyongyang is using the women as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the country for its defiant May 25 atomic test and as North Korea seeks to draw Washington into direct negotiations. Washington’s former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson called the sentencing part of ”a high-stakes poker game” being played by North Korea. He said on NBC’s Today show that he thinks negotiations for their ”humanitarian release” can begin now that the legal process has been completed. Other South Korean analysts also said they expect the two to be freed following negotiations. The journalists were found guilty of committing a ”grave crime” against North Korea and of illegally entering the country, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. North Korean guards arrested Ling and Lee near the China-North Korean border on March 17. The two were reporting about the trafficking of North Korean women at the time of their arrest, and it’s unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China. A cameraman and their local guide escaped. The Central Court in Pyongyang sentenced each to 12 years of ”reform through labor” in a North Korean prison after a five-day trial, KCNA said in a terse, two-line report that provided no further details. A Korean-language version said they were convicted of ”hostility toward the Korean people.” The ruling — nearly three months after their arrest on March 17 — comes amid soaring tensions fueled by North Korea’s nuclear test last month and signs it is preparing for a long-range missile test. On Monday, North Korea warned fishing boats to stay away from the east coast, Japan’s coast guard said, raising concerns more missile tests are being planned … Verdicts issued by North Korea’s highest court are final and cannot be appealed, said Choi Eun-suk, a North Korean law expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at South Korea’s Kyungnam University. He said North Korea’s penal code calls for transferring them to prison within 10 days. The United States, which does not have diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, was ”deeply concerned” about the reported verdict, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington. He said officials would ”engage in all possible channels” to win the reporters’ release. At the White House on Monday, deputy spokesman William Burton said in a statement: ”The president is deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release.”
This sentence is ghastly and is clearly only being used for political gain by North Korea. It is absolutely a terrifying prospect to spend 12 years in any prison, let alone a labor camp in the very clandestine North Korea. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Lee and Ling families. It is my sincere hope that something can be done on the part of our government or perhaps one of the Asian governments (China, Japan) in the area to extricate these journalists. If these women are not retrieved before they are sent to the camps, we may never see or hear from either of the again.