North Korea Sentences U.S. Journalists to 12 Years


This is one of the most effed-up stories in recent memory, and given the subject matter, it's generally appalling how little attention it's been getting from the press:

North Korea has sentenced two American journalists to 12 years in a labor prison as they were found guilty of illegally entering the region, three months after they were arrested, the state-run news agency said on Monday.

The journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, were tried in the Central Court, North's highest court in Pyongyang, from June 4 to 8. They both were found guilty of "hostile acts" in the communist state.

The two female journalists were taken into custody by the North Korean guards on March 17 while filming near the Tumen River, which separates North Korea and China.

"The trial confirmed the grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing," the Korean Central News Agency reported, adding that they were sentenced to 12 years of reform through labor.

More here.

Lee and Ling work for Current, the Al Gore-sponsored TV/web outlet, whose home page as of this writing betrayed no interest in the verdict (an auto newsfeed linked to a wire story on a secondary page).

Gawker takes Al Gore to task for being silent on the matter:

Gore has been silent on the issue, Current.TV told their people to not say a word about it. It's no less disconcerting that Gore was, according to the Page Six item, at a fundraiser for Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day, instead of working—doing something, anything—to free his employees from what's probably the worst work-related trip of all time. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's now threatening to put North Korea back on our country's list of "Terror States" as of this morning, and President Obama just told them that we're not playin' when it comes to nuclear proliferation as of yesterday. Things are absolutely getting worse, and it's pretty clear that if North Korea views Ling and Lee as diplomatic pawns, our government sure as hell doesn't.

Gore's got several points of entry he can make: among the few political issues Pyongyang takes "public" is climate change. The North Korean government loves to have their asses kissed, and the Department of State hasn't ruled out Gore's involvement, so him coming simply as a diplomat couldn't be a bad thing.

So what's Gore waiting for? Our government's approval? A PR angle? Whatever it is, it better come quick. There's virtually no idea out there of what Ling and Lee are going through, or how they're being treated. Ling and Lee could be fine. They could simply get deported, get off scot-free. But Lee's got family in South Korea. Who, you know, North Korea doesn't really like. Which is besides Americans, which Ling and Lee both are.

More here.

As Gawker notes, it's not clear what sort of back channel stuff is going on, but this is a genuinely awful situation and one that seems to be sliding by the folks who could be doing something about it.