On June 8, 2009, the Associated Press reported that the two US journalists were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, or more accurately, reform through labor by the Central Court in Pyongyang. "Washington said that it would 'engage in all possible channels' to win the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee" (AP, 2009).
According to the state run media, the two reporters were found guilty of committing a "grave crime" against North Korea, and illegally entering the country. The Korean language version, actually, reads that they were convicted of "hostility toward the Korean people."
Moreover, according to Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea law expert at the Institute for Far East Studies, at South Korea's Kyungam University, verdicts issued by North Korea's highest court are final and cannot be appealed. As required by the Korean penal code, the two journalists will be transferred to a prison facility within 10 days.
As for now, their release will be dependent on successful diplomatic efforts by the US government. Problematic is that the US government does not have diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. All of this occurring at a time when the United Nations (UN) is debating a draft resolution to punish North Korea for its defiant May 25 atomic test. The fate of the two journalist are directly tied to these issues of international concern. This is because many perceive the harsh punishment of the two US journalists as eventually presenting a bargaining chip for Pyongyang.
Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said the 12-year sentence, though the maxium under Korean law, "does not mean much because the issue will be resolved diplomatically in the end" (AP, 2009).
Vijay Joshi, North Korea Sentences US Journalists, AP, June 8, 2009.