North Korea has likely sent two US journalists detained by border guards last week to the capital Pyongyang for questioning, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported yesterday.
The US State Department has expressed concern over the fate of the two women, who are believed to have been taken into custody while filming near the Tumen river, an escape route for those fleeing the communist state.
Confirmation by North Korea’s state media on Saturday of their detention showed the central government was directly involved in their case, Yonhap said, quoting an unnamed source in China.
“Given the significance of the case, it is very likely that the two US journalists have been sent to Pyongyang for questioning directly by the North’s security and military agencies,” the source told Yonhap.
The North may use the case “politically,” it added. Government officials in Seoul could not confirm the Yonhap report.
North Korea on Saturday confirmed that it had detained the duo for “illegally intruding into the territory” of the communist country on March 17.
The official Korean Central News Agency said in a terse dispatch: “A competent organ is now investigating the case,” giving no further details of the whereabouts of the Americans.
Diplomatic sources said Washington and Pyongyang were in talks over the release of the two, identified as Euna Lee, a Korean-American, and Laura Ling (凌志美), a Taiwanese-American, who both work for Current TV in California.
Ling’s family emigrated from Taiwan to the US several years ago and now lives in Los Angeles.
Ling’s sister, Lisa Ling (凌志慧), a former co-host of the American TV talk show The View and is now a correspondent for National Geographic Channel’s Explorer.