[Update: Twelve years is also the maximum sentence. Obviously, the North Koreans are sending a message. The message is, "This one is going to cost you."]
North Korea on Monday sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor in a case widely seen as a test of how far the isolated Communist state was willing to take its confrontational stance toward the United States.
The Central Court, the highest court of North Korea, held the trial of the two Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from Thursday to Monday and convicted them of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry,” the North’s official news agency, KCNA, said in a report monitored in Seoul. [N.Y. Times, Choe Sang-Hun]
The first thing that comes to mind is the face of Euna Lee’s four year old daughter.
The second is Hillary Clinton’s ludicrous call for bloggers to do what the State Department has failed to do. It is the State Department itself that ought to tell us exactly how and where the North Koreans seized these woman, starting with what their cameraman, Mitch Koss, reported. Tell us what truth there is to rumors that the North Koreans intentionally lured these women into captivity. Tell us whether the North Koreans kidnapped them from China, as they did to the Reverend Kim Dong Shik before they killed him, and before Barack Obama falsely promised to demand his freedom.
For those of us who care about the people of North Korea and who want to see them elevated from hell to earth, we owe Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee our support, beginning by helping them tell the story they were not allowed to tell themselves. Begin with the video of this woman, who died in the same river where Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee were seized, as she tried to flee North Korea. By telling the world, we defy North Korea’s act of judicial terrorism.
Watch the documentary Laura Ling’s sister, Lisa, made a year ago, showing the pathetic mental and emotional slavery in which North Koreans exist, and ask yourself if North Korea’s treatment of Lisa Ling’s sister, Laura, could possibly be unrelated to this thuggish regime’s desire for vengeance. Tell the world.
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 ransom.