SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea wants the U.S. to show remorse for the actions of two American journalists convicted of illegally entering the country, and it might free the women if Washington does so, a scholar who visited Pyongyang said Saturday.
The comments by North Korean officials to University of Georgia political scientist Han S. Park came as analysts say the isolated communist regime intends to use the detention of Laura Ling and Euna Lee as bargaining chips in its ongoing standoff with Washington over the country’s nuclear and missile threats.
The journalists were detained in March near the North Korean border with China and sentenced last month to 12 years of hard labor for entering the country illegally and for “hostile acts.” The two were in the area to interview North Korean refugees.
Park said North Korean officials told him during his recent five-day visit that the U.S. should offer “a remorseful acknowledgment” over the journalists’ reporting, which they believe constituted “hostile acts” against their country because it would have cast the North in a negative light.
Park said he visited Pyongyang in a private capacity and was not representing the U.S. government. He also said that he learned during the trip that the women are being kept in a Pyongyang guesthouse rather than being sent to a labor camp. He said he heard the information from what he called “responsible government officials” in Pyongyang.