It seems virtually every other K-blogger has mentioned the story as well, so just in case you haven’t read it already, here’s some background (from CNN):
Ling and Lee are reporters for California-based Current TV, a media venture
of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. They were arrested in March, and the
Central Court of North Korea sentenced them to 12 years at hard labor for what
the country’s state news agency called the “grave crime they committed against
the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing.”
The U.S. State Department was informed by the Swedish ambassador to North Korea that no observers were allowed in the courtroom. The State Department was notified the reporters had a defense attorney, but was not given the lawyer’s name.
Senior Obama administration officials told CNN that several weeks ago, Clinton wrote a letter to the North Korean leadership appealing for the journalists’ release on humanitarian grounds. In the letter, officials said, Clinton told the North Koreans that the families were deeply concerned about the women and went into details on their personal situations — that Ling has serious health problems and Lee is the mother of a young child.
There has been no response from the North Koreans, the officials said, and Clinton told reporters she would not discuss “private diplomatic efforts.” But she said Washington views the case as something separate from the ongoing diplomatic standoff over North Korea’s nuclear arms program.
“What needs to happen now is humanitarian negotiations for the release of the two women,” he said. “In my past negotiations with the North Koreans, you don’t start negotiating for humanitarian release until after the North Korean legal process is over. It’s over now, so the discussions have to start.”
I love that last line – now the discussions have to start, once they’ve been declared guilty and their political process (whatever it may be) has taken place, a fair price can now be paid. The consensus of most of the aforementioned blogs – along with a hat tip to ROK Drop and Korea Beat for covering lots of good news stories regarding Korea – is that a bribe of some kind will be paid, various politicans will make their plea (Hillary Clinton? Al Gore?) , and hopefully – hopefully – these two young, pretty, innocent women will be released from the clutches of North Korea.
I have only one question: has negotiation with North Korea ever actually worked in the past? I don’t claim to be a historian and don’t care to be, but in any negotiation with North Korea in, say, the last 30 years – have we ever got what we wanted? Asking nicely just isn’t working, people – and politicians can only offer that same rhetoric talk that is barely believed by the American people anymore.
I personally like OneFreeKorea’s stance:
The thugs should not be rewarded for what they have done to these women,
and the story that the media tells us about their fate should not only be a
story of negotiations, “brinksmanship,” “bargaining chips,” and ransom. Under the U.S. Criminal Code, it is terrorism to attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or to “affect the conduct” or “influence the policy of a government” in exchange for a person’s freedom. If North Korea makes such a demand, the President has strong legal, non-military authorities to respond to acts of terrorism. There should be no more of the ransom that perpetuates this terror, year after year, after miserable year. For once, we should respond by using the laws we have in place for just such a purpose. We should pursue their assets and bank accounts to the ends of the earth, freeze them, and deny this regime the means to terrorize anyone within, without, or along its borders. We know that that financial pressure works.
If for no other reason than the sake of the next victim, let’s respond by giving
North Korea the infamy it deserves, and by paying Kim Jong Il the opposite of
Enough is enough.