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.

Humanitarian aid

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.

You can do your part by signing the petition to Free Euna Lee and Laura Ling, or follow @liberatelaura on Twitter for all developments.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

4 Responses

  1. Jessica

    It is quite sad what has happened to these two journalist. But in all honesty, do we really know what had happened? Your blog regarding this issue is quite hard to handle. You write all this without knowing any facts and the whole article is based on speculations. Maybe you should do your research before making such comments. I hope that the journalists are released as well if they were innocent. And if they committed a small crime (such as crossing the boarder without consent), I don’t think they should be jailed for 12 years either. Most likely, they probably didn’t commit any heinous crime. But we don’t know that for certain without getting the facts. More importantly than their certain release, I would like to know what truly transpired instead of pointing fingers.

  2. Kennetta Slavin

    Please pray with me that Korea will be accepting to the idea of talking about this incident and be willing to release the girls. God does hear and answere prayers and this is a time when only the power of God can get them free.
    Please do everything you can to assist in their release.
    Thank you

  3. Academy of Art University

    Euna Lee is a 2001 graduate of the Academy of Art University. We have compiled an online petition to call for the immediate release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Please join us by adding your name:

  4. Austin Morgan

    One of the final acts of the George W Bush Administration was to pursue extradition proceedings in Ireland against Sean Garland a 75 year old Irish citizen accused of being involved in distributing forged US money alledgedly produced in North Korea. As a life-long opponent of US foreign policy he has little chance of a fair trial in the US. In properly arguing for clemency for Lee and Ling Americans should be aware of this politically motivated case.


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