Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday that the two U.S. journalists held by the authorities since March 17th have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor reeducation camp.
The KCNA announced, “The Central Court of the DPRK staged the trial of American journalists Laura Ling and Lee Seung Eun (Euna Lee) from the 4th to 8th. The two were convicted of crimes against the state and illegal border crossing, and the Central Court sentenced them both to 12 years of reform through labor.”
Labor camp prisons are not dealt with by the National Security Agency but the People’s Safety Agency. Prisoners are detained in the labor camps under the PSA and are not classified as political prisoners. Family members or relatives of prisoners can visit the reeducation camp and are allowed to bring in food for prisoners. When the term of imprisonment expires, the prisoners can be released.
The two have a high chance of being sent to one or other of two special reeducation camps. The People’s Safety Agency operates special reeducation camps in order to detain officials of the Workers’ Party, other high cadres or important figures who need to be well treated. These camps are better-equipped than other general camps. They serve relatively better food.
The special camps are reportedly located in Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province and Wonsan, Kangwon Province. Prisoners in them are detained whilst engaged in relatively light labor. When international human rights organizations request visits to North Korean prisons, they are shown such camps.
Therefore, the two journalists are likely to be detained in just such a camp. The possibility of them going to the Pyongsung camp is higher because it is closer to Pyongyang and does not require that the two be shown too much of the North Korean scenery.
North Korea seems determined to pacify international disputes on North Korean human rights abuses in the detention facilities by imprisoning the two journalists in the special camp.
The reason why North Korea sentenced them to the maximum penalty allowable under the law was to put pressure on the U.S. and to take the lead in North Korea-U.S. negotiations while drawing out the issue.
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