Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for San Francisco-based Current TV, were convicted by the nation's top Central Court of an unspecified "grave crime" against the hard-line regime after they were arrested in March along the Chinese-North Korean border while reporting a story on human trafficking.
In a terse statement Monday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency did not say where the women are to serve the time. North Koreans who receive similar sentences of "reform through labor" often face starvation and torture in a penal system many consider among the world's most repressive, said David Hawk, author of the 2004 study "The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps."
Amid an international outcry over the sentences, the White House said Monday that it was "engaged through all possible channels" in seeking the release of Ling, 32, and Lee, 36.
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If the pair are held for a lengthy period, analysts believe they may be sent to a kyo-hwa-so, or "reeducation" reformatory, "that is the equivalent of a felony penitentiary in the U.S., as opposed to a county jail or misdemeanor facility," Hawk said.
"It's extremely hard labor under extremely brutal conditions," he said. "These places have very high rates of deaths in detention. The casualties from forced labor and inadequate food supplies are very high."
Many North Korean reeducation camps, he said, are affiliated with mines or textile factories where the long work shifts are often followed by self-criticism sessions and the forced memorization of North Korean communist policy doctrine.
Please continue to pray urgently for Laura Ling and Euna Lee, that they will be protected and adequately nourished during their imprisonment, and that their release can be negotiated soon.
Trial Begins for 2 American Journalists
American Journalists Being Interrogated for Espionage
Kidnapped American Journalists Being Interrogated in N. Korea
American Journalists Held by North Korea