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N. Korea: Journos on smear trip

TWO American journalists sentenced by North Korea last week to 12 years of hard labor were caught shooting video for what the North said was a politically motivated "smear campaign," the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday.

The reporting team from Current TV crossed the frozen Tumen River dividing North Korea and China three months ago and walked up the river bank - all the while recording their transgression, the news agency said.

"We've just entered a North Korean courtyard without permission," the Korean translation of their narration on the videotape said, according to KCNA.

One of them picked up and pocketed a stone as a memento of the illegal move, the report said. Two women - reporter Laura Ling and editor Euna Lee - were arrested in Kangan-ri in North Hamgyong Province, the report said.

A third person, Current TV executive producer Mitch Koss, and their guide managed to flee, KCNA said.

Lee and Ling were sentenced on June 8 in North Korea's top court to 12 years of hard labor for what KCNA called politically motivated crimes. They were accused of crossing into North Korea to capture video for a "smear campaign" focused on human rights, the report said.

"The accused admitted that what they did were criminal acts committed, prompted by the political motive to isolate and stifle the socialist system of (North Korea) by faking up moving images aimed at falsifying its human rights performance and hurling slanders and calumnies at it," it said.

The women's families claim Lee, 36, and Ling, 32, were reporting on North Korean refugees in China and had no intention of crossing into North Korea.

The alleged details of the case involving the two women working for the San Francisco-based media venture founded by former US Vice President Al Gore were released by state media just hours before President Barack Obama was to sit down at the White House with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. The two leaders were expected to discuss the North and make a strong show of unity.


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