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N. Korea to Indict 2 Detained U.S. Journalists

Posted April. 01, 2009 08:32,   


North Korea said yesterday that it will try two American journalists who were detained in a border region earlier this month.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said the two reporters’ illegal entry and hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements. It added preparation is underway to indict the reporters while authorities are continuing their investigation.

Pyongyang failed to elaborate on what the “hostile acts” were or what law will be applied to them. Korean American Yuna Lee and Chinese American Laura Ling were detained by the North Korean military March 17 while they were covering North Korean escapees along the North’s border with China near the Duman River.

Under North Korean law, foreigners who gather and leak secrets with the purpose of spying on the North are subject to five to 10 years of hard labor. If the crime is deemed serious, the punishment is harsher.

Another clause of the law says foreigners who cause national discord with intent to antagonize the nation are also subject to the same punishment. Considering that North Korea resolved past cases involving Americans politically, however, the report could be a bargaining chip to be used against the United States.

Pyongyang and Washington are reportedly negotiating the journalists’ release behind the scenes. The North said the reporters are being allowed to contact consuls and are being treated according to international law.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that it interviewed the two journalists through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said the interview was held last weekend but that he had no idea where they are detained.

North Korea also questioned a detained South Korean worker of Hyundai Asan Corp. for the second day yesterday. A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the North has yet to accept a request from Seoul and Hyundai to allow an interview with the worker with South Korean officials and an attorney.

When the North began investigating the worker, it guaranteed his health, safety and rights in the process. The South Korean civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights issued a statement yesterday urging Pyongyang to allow the civilian to contact Seoul officials and his immediate release.