- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SEOUL | 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,” state-run media said Tuesday.

The reporting team from Current TV crossed the frozen Tumen River dividing North Korea and China three months ago and walked up the riverbank - and then recorded their transgression, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) 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 Korean-Chinese guide managed to flee, KCNA said.

Last week, Miss Lee, 36, and Miss Ling, 32, were sentenced 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.

Current TV public relations director Brent Marcus said in an e-mail that the company had no comment.

The women were detained March 17 at a time of rising tensions between North Korea and the United States over the communist nation’s nuclear and missile programs.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who earlier called the charges against the women “baseless,” said Washington was working every channel to secure their release.

Meanwhile, a top Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday that the youngest son - and reportedly heir apparent - of North Korea’s ailing leader Kim Jong-il secretly visited China last week and was urged by President Hu Jintao to have the North halt additional nuclear tests.

During the trip, Kim Jong-un asked China - the North’s key ally and biggest aid donor - to continue its energy and food aid to the North, the Asahi newspaper said, quoting unnamed North Korean sources in Beijing.

It also said that Mr. Hu urged the 26-year-old to have Pyongyang refrain from carrying out any further nuclear and missile tests. It did not provide further details.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry said they could not confirm the report. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference in Beijing that he had no knowledge of any such meeting.

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who was born to Kim Jong-il’s late wife, Ko Yong-hi. He studied at the International School of Berne in Switzerland until 1998 under a pseudonym and learned English, German and French, the Swiss weekly news magazine L’Hebdo reported earlier this year, citing classmates and school officials.

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