LOS ANGELES—The families of two U.S. journalists sentenced to 12 years' hard labor in North Korea after allegedly entering the country illegally are apologizing to the reclusive Stalinist regime and pleading for the women's release.
Mary Ling, the mother of journalist Laura Ling, told RFA's Mandarin service that the families had had no news of Ling or her colleague, Euna Lee, since their trial and sentencing earlier this month.
"We apologize to the North Korean government," Ling said, speaking in Mandarin Chinese. "They…also apologize."
Laura and Euna's families are devastated..."
Mary Ling, mother
"We hope that the North Korean government will take into consideration the ordeal and pain we… Laura's parents…are going through, and release them soon."
Ling and Lee, who were on assignment for San Francisco-based Current TV when they were arrested along the China-North Korean border in March, were sentenced this month to 12 years' hard labor for illegally entering North Korea for the purpose of committing "hostile acts."
"Laura and Euna's families are devastated by the verdict of 12 years of hard labor. I am particularly concerned that it was not an open trial," Mary Ling said.
'Doing their jobs'
"We can only speculate what the North Korean government is thinking and intends to do. Other than that, we know nothing. We don't know where they are, or if they have begun serving their sentences," she said. "We hope the girls have been getting our letters."
Lisa Ling, Ling's sister and a former CNN special correspondent, told CNN on Tuesday, "All we can say is they are journalists and they were doing their job."
Ling and Lee were sentenced after a five-day trial in Pyongyang's Central Court from which observers were barred.
U.S. officials are working to secure the release of the women through Sweden because Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, and tensions are running high.
In the last two months, Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear weapons test, launched six short-range missiles, scrapped international disarmament negotiations, and possibly restarted its plutonium reprocessing plant.
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has called for the women's release on humanitarian grounds, but officials fear the women may be used as pawns by North Korea following its underground nuclear test in May and the U.N. Security Council's ensuing unanimous vote to tighten sanctions.
Original reporting by Xiao Rong for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated by Mandarin service director Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han