Chinese-American journalist Laura Ling and Korean-American journalist Euna Lee have been found guilty of “hostile acts” and illegal entry into North Korea, the BBC reports. They have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for committing what North Korea calls a “grave crime.”
The women were arrested in March after apparently crossing the China-North Korea border. Some believe the two, who were working on a refugee story for California-based Current TV (led by Al Gore), were arrested on China’s side of the border.
“We are 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” said a statement from the U.S. State Department.
Many believe North Korea, during this period of increased global tensions as a result of their nuclear and missile testing, are using the two women as “bargaining chips” with the United States.
What bothers me the most about this, and I’m sure the families of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, too, is the certainty that these two women didn’t and probably weren’t even able to commit a grave crime, hostile act or espionage.
They were journalists armed with nothing but cameras and the resolve to file a story for Current TV.
The sentence is more about North Korea being angry with the world because the world is angry with them. They will no doubt use the women as bargaining tokens because they know the U.S., rightfully so, would never allow two of their citizens to be prosecuted and subjected to more than a decade of “reform through labor” in a foreign, unstable nation for no solid reason.
North Korea hasn’t even specified what the supposed “grave crime” and “hostile act” is.
Why? Because the women most likely didn’t do anything grave or hostile.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is considering sending an envoy to negotiate Lee and Ling’s release over what she calls a “baseless” detention, the BBC reports.
CNN reports senior administration officials are weighing their options, currently thinking about sending former Vice President Al Gore, who leads the independent media company for which Ling and Lee work, or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who served as ambassador to the UN during the Clinton administration, to negotiate release.
“What we would try to seek would be some kind of political pardon, some kind of a respite from the legal proceedings” said Richardson, the Taipei Times reports.
North Korea is expected to allow a visit from one of the men, according to CNN.
What can we really offer them that won’t end up hurting us?
Humanitarian aid is perhaps a good option; North Korea is a poor nation. But they’ve routinely put the strength and welfare of their public image above that of their people, something that may again happen. Hopefully not, since they need the aid bad and have repeatedly demanded it when in situations where they have “bargaining chips.”
They closed their nuclear facilities during the six-party talks in exchange for humanitarian aid.
North Korea is‚ a strong but rusty machine, they never waver, though sometimes weakness emerges from beneath their guise of absolute strength. That weakness is their lack of money.
This isn’t just the U.S.’s problem either, it’s the world’s. It’s really North Korea that has committed the “hostile act” and “grave crime” by thinking this is OK.
We all wish for the safe return of‚ Euna Lee and Laura Ling. I can’t imagine a situation where the U.S. would allow North Korea to keep them.