North Korea revealed on Friday that the two U.S. reporters arrested near the Tumen River by North Korean border guards on March 17 have been indicted for trial.
Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that “A competent authority of the DPRK has examined the American journalists. It has been decided to put them on trial based on the results of the investigation.”
Laura Ling and Euna Lee are likely to stand trial either in a court in North Hamkyung Province, which exercises jurisdiction over the site of the arrest, or in the Central Court of Justice in Pyongyang.
According to the reformed 2004 criminal code, a court of provincial judges sits on cases of anti-state, anti-nation, capital sentence and reeducation camp life sentence cases at the first trial.
The Central Court of Justice deals with second trials; cases first dealt with by a provincial court or the Railroad Court, which covers crimes by railroad workers and abuses of railway transportation. If necessary, however, the Central Court can directly adjudicate upon any case regardless of jurisdiction, so there is the possibility that the two could be put on trial there directly.
North Korea released the results of their initial investigation on March 31 through the Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA), saying that, “Based upon the evidence collected and individual statements, the two have been charged with illegal entry and hostile actions.”
Under Clause 69, Article 3 of the Penal Code “in a case where a foreigner abuses Chosun (North Korea) people and their property or provokes national difficulty in order to antagonize the Chosun nation, a charge of ‘Chosun nation hostility crime’ can be applied.”
Standard punishment for this crime is between five and ten years of labor reeducation. In a serious case, a sentence of more than ten years labor reeducation can be handed down.
According to Clause 233, Article 7 of the Penal Code, “An illegal crossing border carries a sentence of less than two-years in a labor training camp. In a serious case, a sentence of less than three years labor reeducation can be handed down.”
North Korea has not charged the journalists with espionage, but the level of punishment for “hostile activity” is equally serious.
Meanwhile, a South Korean citizen working for Hyundai Asan continues to be under examination on suspicion of encouraging defection from North Korea and denouncement of the North Korean system. The possibility that he may also be put on trial is high.