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American journalists to be tried in DPRK

TWO United States journalists accused by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea of crossing into the country illegally from China and committing "hostile acts" will be tried on criminal charges, the DPRK announced yesterday.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who work for San Francisco-based Current TV, a media venture founded by former Vice President Al Gore, were arrested March 17 near the DPRK border while reporting on North Korean refugees.

DPRK's official Korean Central News Agency confirmed their detention late last month, saying indictments were being prepared as an investigation into suspected illegal entry and unspecified "hostile acts" continued.

A dispatch yesterday said that the investigation had concluded, and the journalists would stand trial "on the basis of the confirmed crimes." It did not say exactly what charges they face or when the trial would take place.

A South Korean who helped organize their trip, Reverend Chun Ki-won of Durihana Mission, said the women traveled to the border region to interview women and children who had fled the DPRK.

He said he warned them repeatedly to stay away from the long and often unmarked border.

A cameraman, Mitch Koss, and the group's guide apparently eluded the guards.

Under the DPRK's criminal code, conviction for illegal entry could mean up to three years in a labor camp.

Espionage or "hostility toward North Koreans" - possible crimes that could be considered "hostile acts" - could mean five years to 10 years in prison, legal expert Moon Dae-hong, from the Republic of Korea, said.


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