Feature

Freeing Laura Ling and Euna Lee

What the U.S., and Al Gore, can do after North Korea sentences two U.S. journalists to 12 years of hard labor

What happenedNorth Korea sentenced two U.S. journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, to 12 years of hard labor for an unspecified "grave crime" and illegally crossing into the country. Ling and Lee, who work for Current TV, were arrested in March near the China–North Korea border. The sentence was handed down as the U.S. said it was considering placing North Korea back on its terrorism blacklist for its recent nuclear tests. (Reuters)

What the commentators saidThis situation is "fraught with horrendous peril, not only for Ling and Lee, but for the United States," said the Gawker site Valleywag. Ling and Lee—who, friends and relatives say, crossed the border by accident—are pawns in the latest "provocation by a renegade country led by a mad man," Kim Jong Il. It's past time for Current TV Chairman Al Gore to "start throwing his weight around" to get his employees out.

The State Department hasn't ruled out sending Gore to negotiate, said Blaine Harden in The Washington Post, and South Korean analysts expect some sort of high-level talks to free the women. In the meantime, while conditions are reportedly "brutal" for North Korea's estimated 200,000 domestic political prisoners, Ling and Lee will probably be treated relatively well, in some sort of special confinement.

What can negotiators offer Kim Jong Il and his "band of thugs"? said Richard Halloran in RealClearPolitics. President Obama has limited options. He can make "lame pleas" for Pyongyang to rejoin six-nation talks; risk a new Korean war by bombing the north's missile sites; or hope for a "more peaceable regime" under Kim's heir apparent, son Kim Jong Un, once the Dear Leader "passes from the scene."

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