WASHINGTON—North Korean authorities say that they are allowing consular access to two detained U.S. journalists and that the women “will be dealt with” according to international law, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea said.
“Recently, we were informed by the authorities that the investigations are now proceeding. I am informed, through that communication from the authorities, that the two arrested have consular contact,” Vitit Muntarbhorn told a briefing at the Korea Economic Institute here.
“I welcome a constructive response ... because it’s really the first time we’ve had a response with some substance, rather than just pure total repudiation of the mandate of the special rapporteur,” he said.
“They say that now the investigation is ongoing and that the two have consular contact. And they’ve also added that the two will be dealt with in accordance with relevant international laws—whatever that means,” Muntarbhorn said.
...It’s really the first time we’ve had a response with some substance..."
Muntarbhorn said he had joined other U.N. special rapporteurs to ask Pyongyang for leniency, transparency, and observance of human rights in the case of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
Working through Sweden
North Korean guards detained Ling and Lee, who work for former U.S. vice president Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV, near the country's border with China on March 17.
They had been reporting on North Korean immigrants in China. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said last month that the two had been arrested on charges of illegally entering the country with the intent to commit "hostile acts.”
U.S. officials have acknowledged their detentions and said they are working through Sweden because Washington has no diplomatic relations with—and no consulate or embassy in—Pyongyang.
Muntarbhorn said he has never been permitted to visit North Korea, although he has served for five years as special rapporteur.
Original reporting by RFA's Korean service. Service director: Francis Huh. Additional reporting by Richard Finney. Edited and produced by Sarah Jackson-Han in Washington.