The trial for American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea is coming up this Thursday, amidst rising tensions between Pyongyang and the rest of the world. The two women, who work for Al Gore’s Current TV network in the U.S., were detained when they crossed the China-North Korea border in March.
Lee and Ling have been accused of hostile acts, such as espionage, and entering illegaly into the country. Being convicted of their accused crimes could land the both of them in the DPRK’s notorious prison camps for up to ten years.
Their trial comes at an especially bad time diplomatically, as nations deal with North Korea’s recent barrage of nuclear testing – a clear violation of a 2006 U.N. resolution banning any acts of the sort.
According to the Associated Press:
Analysts warned North Korea could use the trial of the Americans to better its hand in the weeks before Obama and South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak hold a White House summit June 16.
“Having two journalists detained in the North leaves the U.S. very little maneuvering room since Washington now has to take the women’s safety into account,” said Yoon Deok-min, a professor at South Korea’s state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.
Some disagreed, thinking that Pyongyang’s desire for direct talks, especially now that both its traditional allies – China and Russia – have disapproved of its activities, could end up helping Lee and Ling. According to the LA Times:
“The next opportunity that the North Koreans have to send a signal to the outside world is through their treatment of the two American journalists,” he said.
“If they do as Iran recently did, they will send a signal that they still have not burned all their bridges to the outside world. If they do not, it will be a signal that the hard-liners are in control, and that they have truly painted themselves into a corner.”
Lee and Ling were allegedly filming a documentary about families running to China to escape the conditions in the DPRK. Their families have asked the country for clemency, especially since Lee is the mother of a 4-year-old and Ling suffers from an ulcer that could have gotten worse in the last two months.