News coming out of Pyongyang is not encouraging. After being accused of illegally crossing the border to North Korea, American Current TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor (according to CNN). Jillian York rounded up blog posts for Global Voices prior to the journalists’ sentencing.
The bleak outcome is eliciting strong reactions online from those who support freedom of press and want North Korea to release the two journalists. A Facebook page for Laura and Euna already has more than five thousand members. Today they are asking the public to respect the families privacy at this moment and not to get emotional:
“You will have many emotions racing. Please try to stay clear of anger. Anger is a waste of energy and what North Korea wants of you.We can and will work together and use our minds, to work this through.”
LiberateLaura, a blog authored by Los Angeles entertainment journalist Richard Horgan, describes events happening in North Korea as “worthy of Shakespeare” and questions the decision of the “Hermit Kingdom” to arrest Laura Ling and Euna Lee:
“Unfortunately, into that mad kingdom, just ahead of the chaos, wandered @Current journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. On Tuesday, March 17th, whether by accident or the trickery of a paid-off Chinese guide, they are alleged to have stepped across an invisible border line at a bridge crossing between China and North Korea. Harsh interrogations and two and a half months of solitary confinement followed, and now, after a brief trial, an absurd sentence of 12 years of hard labor for illegally crossing the border and an unspecified “grave crime.”
The Shakespearean analogy is useful because it allows us, just slightly, to make sense of the unfathomable June 8th Ling-Lee verdict. Kim Jong-il is indeed pushing it to the limit on the diplomatic, nuclear and innocent Americans fronts, all in a bid to reassure the country’s military hard liners that a Kim Jong-un succession will maintain the Amy-first status quo.”
On YouTube, supporters are posting videos calling for the immediate release of Laura and Euna. There are also videos and photos of vigils in South Korea, San Fransisco and elsewhere in the United States.
Here is as public service announcement from Pacific Rim Video and Kelly Hu:
As the public and various organizations promoting free press are coming together to call for Laura and Euna's release, some are now questioning the reactions of United States State Department and former U.S. vice president Al Gore (the founder and chairman of Current TV, which employed Euna and Laura) to the situation.
At Asia Times, Donald Kirk says:
“The North Koreans also get offended every time a top-level American visitor visits the region, and one immediate complication of the trial is that it coincides with a trip to South Korea, China and Japan of a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
Steinberg has not talked publicly about the two women but has made clear in meetings with South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and other top officials that the US is not willing to negotiate their fate. Could he have had their case in mind when he assured Lee that the US would not offer more aid for North Korea. “
He then proceeds to speculate about Al Gore's involvement in negotiations:
“How about giving them up to a high-level American delegation? Gore comes to mind as the man for the job in view of his control over the network for which the two women were working.
Gore has been strangely silent throughout, all the more reason to think he's waiting to give face to the North Koreans and rescue the two women – a happy ending that may be too much to hope for.”
Gore would be perfect for the mission. His presence would acknowledge North Korea's need for recognition as a member of the global nuclear club but would not constitute official US recognition of anything.
Not everyone is taking Gore's silence so lightly. John in Condition Yellow takes Gore's lack of involvement less lightly, saying:
I don't expect Mr. Global Warming to just drop what he's doing and go sailing off to north Korea to negotiate the release of two people who work for him. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is far too busy saving the planet. Right? But how long would it take for him to issue a simple statement like, “Hey, Kim Jomg Il! Let my people go, or we will take your carbon credits away.”
But seriously, am I the only one who thinks that even a simple public statement from Mr. Pulitzer, condemning the trial, would at least be the decent thing to do for people who work for him?
Hmmm. Okay, maybe Bill Richardson would be more effective.
But one thing is for certain, as Jo points out in the blog Jo's Department – everyone is wishing for the journalists’ safe return:
I hope that they do not endure Pyongyang’s horrific (as described by escapees) prison system and that two journalists could safely return and be reunited to their families soon.