The Supreme Court of North Korea sentenced two US journalists of Asian origin - Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36 – to 12 years of hard labor for transgressing the border between China and North Korea.
The two women started touring the north of China collecting materials for their documentary about border crossers from North Korea. NKorean border guards arrested them on March 17. The government of the nation believes that the US citizen illegally entered North Korea ’s territory from China.
The two women had to spend 2.5 months in pre-trial detention. The Swedish ambassador, who represents the USA’s interests in Pyongyang, made several visits to the women during that period. The trial began on June 4.
It was originally believed that the US journalists would be judged for either illegal crossing of the state border or espionage. Many specialists presumed that they would face from five to ten years in prison. However, the verdict proved to be a lot more serious. The two defendants were found guilty of committing a severe crime against North Korea and were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.
The journalists may find themselves in labor camps, which look like special settlements. The prisoners do not live behind barbed wire there, but they can not leave their settlements and have to appear at the local department for public security on a regular basis.
There are worse camps in North Korea - special districts of the objects of dictatorship. Their former prisoners, who managed to escape to South Korea, said that the prisoners of those camps work 12 hours a day and eat 200-300 grams of rice daily. They live in dugouts and are allowed to engage in agriculture on the territory of the camp.
The women may not go to hard labor camps at all. A similar situation occurred 13 years ago, when US citizen Evan Hunziker was arrested for transgressing the North Korean border. The government of the nation eventually agreed to release him for $5,000. The US journalists may hope for a similar outcome of their story.
Vladimir Khrustalev, an expert for North Korea with the Center for International Research, said in an interview with Pravda.Ru that there was nothing extraordinary with what happened to the US journalists in the isolated country.
“Most likely, this situation is regulated by the international law, because the journalists were arrested on the territory of North Korea. It is not known what kind of equipment the journalists had. North Korea is extremely concerned about any kind of equipment that is capable of collecting and transmitting important information.
“The Americans detained thousands of foreign nationals outside the United States after 9/11 terrorist attacks. I personally would not be too emotional about the future of the two journalists. They have not been isolated entirely. It is highly unlikely that they will become the prisoners of labor camps.
“Most likely, North Korea will release the journalists after the country gets something in return. It is not ruled out, though, that they can stay there longer, especially if it turns out that they were doing something secretly in the country.
“The severe verdict is just a part of the game, which North Korea plays with the world. The nuclear explosion, the missile launches, the sentence against the US journalists – all these events are the links of one chain. The North Korean government wants to show that it has serious intentions and demonstrates its tough position to the United States to be able to haggle with the country.
“North Korea wants to obtain security guarantees from the USA and possibly access external resources. The withdrawal of additional sanctions would be the minimum of what they seek, whereas full-scale financial and food assistance would be the maximum,” the expert said.