[JURIST] North Korean state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) [media website] reported Friday that two US journalists arrested in March will stand trial. While the charges remain unclear, it is possible the journalists will face charges of espionage [AP report]. According to the South Korea Ministry of Unification [official website], espionage charges in North Korea carry at least a five year prison sentence in labor camps. There are concerns that North Korea will use the journalist as leverage [BBC report; JURIST comment] in international negotiations as North Korean regime has been the subject of considerable international pressure over its refusal to fully disclose its past nuclear activity. US State Department spokesperson Robert Wood said [press briefing] Friday that, "we continue to call on the North Koreans to release the two Americans so they can be returned to their families. Well continue to work this issue through diplomatic channels."
The two journalists were detained in March 2008 [JURIST report] while allegedly attempting to enter the country illegally from China. Laura Ling [professional website] and Euna Lee were reporting on North Korean refugees in China for Current TV [media website] when they allegedly crossed the border [Yonhap report]. An investigation by North Korean officials allegedly concluded that the journalists had entered the country illegally [AFP report] and that there was enough evidence to charge [JURIST report] them. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile; JURIST news archive] has reportedly been involved in talks [Chosun Ilbo report] regarding the reporters.