Sunday, June 7, 2009

North Korea Sentences Journalists: No Surprises Here

The article leads with a fairly simple statement:

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said charges against two American journalists detained in North Korea for illegally entering the country are baseless and they should be allowed to return home...." (Bloomberg)

Sounds reasonable, too: from my perspective.

Another article, written an hour or so later, starts with another fairly simple statement:

"North Korea's state news agency says the country's top court has convicted two U.S. journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in labor prison...." (FOXNews)

Well, at least North Korea settled on a charge that they'd use. No sense leaving a blank spot on the paperwork, I suppose.

Yet another article gives a hint, I think, of the real reason the journalists were tried and sentenced. Sentenced, anyway:

"Two U.S. journalists detained in North Korea while covering the plight of defectors living along the China-North Korea border have been sentenced to 12 years in labor camps, the country's state-run media said Monday...." (CNN)

It's bad news for Laura Ling and Euna Lee, of course. If North Korea's government is serious about this, odds are that the two young women will die well before the dozen years are up.

I rather hope that what North Korea has in mind is using them as bargaining chips, and has just upped the ante. It may work, too.

It will be interesting, over the next week, to see how this plays in America and other countries. I've gotten the impression that North Korea may be losing what respect and stature it had, with this latest round of missile tests, nuclear test, and a "communications satellite" launch.

As for 'what should be done:' It's tempting to start a jingoistic rant about nuking North Korea. Never mind that the people we're concerned about would be killed, along with 'all those foreigners.' At this point, military action of any sort probably isn't the best course of action.

In the short term, I think that diplomacy - and a whacking great bribe - may free the journalists.

In the long term, Dear Leader is mortal, and will eventually die. When that happens, in principle, his son would assume Kim Jong Il's place as the third of that dynasty.

Or, North Korea's government may tear itself apart in a flurry of assassinations.

And, I'm sure there are a number of other possible scenarios.

Eventually, though, if North Korea does not change its habit of threatening its neighbors, I think that the country will be attacked. Whether American forces are involved, or whether another country gets fed up first, is something I don't know enough to speculate about.

Related post: In the news:


Anonymous said...

No matter what you think of North Korea, they are a sovereign country. They have borders that everyone knows you are not supposed to go near. So why is it that these two reporters dare a country to act in a way that they have always acted. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for these two idiots who are selfish for their own notoriety. They have thoughtlessly inflicted tremendous pain on their families and loved ones. They have put the U.S. in a very awkward position in dealing with this instead of the missle and nuclear threats.
If North Korea releases them, we should jail them to finishout their sentences for sheer stupidity. I am so mad at these two.

Anonymous said...

They were curious about a non-porous border of a country led by psychopaths who purportedly treat their citizens like slaves for the good of the 'dear leader' and his pals. I'm not mad at them. It was a questionable decision. But the real people to be mad at are the North Korea military machine. What's up their ass? Do they need some religion or something? Maybe a beer?

Unknown said...

What is North Korea's rationale for imprisoning these two young journalists?
1) We can see them and everything they do from the sky (satellites), so WTF!?
2) If this is simply an attempt to keep their closed-minded people pure from Western contact, then I hope someone will be able to break through the brainwashing and realize that imprisoning two innocent people for no apparent reason is also a threat to them.

One would think people in Afghanistan would someday wants to build roads...

Onme would think someday in North Korea the people will wake up and create a vuiolent up-risiong from hell and unleash the wrath of Khan on that crazy FU#@ Kim Jung Ill.

But noooo... this is what happens when people go full bore into religion. There is no coming back to reality.

Unknown said...

They would have spent some jail time in any country they would have entered illegally into and got caught, unfortunately they picked North Korea, and they got caught. Now typical the North Koreans trump up the charge which was expected. A 12 year sentence will teach them as well as others a lesson in entering a country illegally. I feel bad for their parents and families, but do not feel sorry for the two journalists.

Unknown said...

LEt's see: If two young Taleban "journalists" snooped around the US-mexican border, crossed it, and were caught making a "documentary", could it happen that we threw them in jail and tried them for espionage? Or even worse, sent them to Gitmo as "terrorists" without the right to a trial at all?
They broke the law and because they represent N Kora's biggest enemy, they get harsh sentences just like the US would have done against similar crimes by our largest enemies. What's the big deal?

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous #1,

Yes, North Korea is a sovereign country. One whose leader has managed to alienate most other countries, and may be driving away it's last major supporter, China.

I can't agree with you, that it's the fault of the "two idiots" - but I am sure that you feel very strongly.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous #2,

A beer might help, but I think the issues of North Korea's leadership go deeper than that.

The country is perhaps the last outpost of Communism in anything close to a 'pure' state - and is in extremely bad shape, economically.

I suspect, but do not know, that part of North Korea's leadership's actions are a result of the stress between a desire to remain true to a failing ideology, and a desire to have subjects who are not starving.

Kim Jong Il's taste for lobster probably hasn't helped, either.

Brian H. Gill said...


North Korea's rationale? See Anonymous #1.

As for "this is what happens when people go full bore into religion." - I think you might consider the possibility that North Korea's ideology is not typical of religion. And, neither is the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

Brian H. Gill said...


Interesting point.

I think it may be a mistake, though, to consider North Korea's judicial system as being fully equivalent with, say, that of Germany's or India's. More at "Moral Equivalence, Prisoners, and Al Qaeda" (July 21, 2007)

Brian H. Gill said...


See previous comment, "moral equivalence" link. The 'all nations are alike - and some are more alike than others' argument is an old one. And, in my view, specious.

Brian H. Gill said...

Chris mankey,

Not the most intellectually compelling argument I've ever heard.

Brian H. Gill said...

The comments, to date, on this post are interesting on several levels. I think I detected ideological stances behind some. And, a great deal of emotionalism.

More, at "Emotions, the Frontal Cortex, The War on Terror, Anarchists, and the Illuminati" (December 23, 2008).

Brigid said...

A number of the commenters here are assuming that they did, in fact, enter the country illegally. But we only have the North Korean court's word on that, and I for one am not given to believe what they say.

It seems unusual, at best, that they would have broken into the country. This seems a bit like that reporter lady who got arrested in (Iran was it?) for spying.

Brian H. Gill said...


That's a point.

But, there are those who assume that some particular country - or organization - can do no wrong. Think Frank Burns and America, in the M*A*S*H television series.

North Korea seems to have its ardent supporters, too.

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