Family of Journos Held in N. Korea Beg For Mercy

Appeal to Pyongyang to free women from 12-year sentence

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after admitting they crossed into North Korea, but family members say the confessions are bogus.

    The families of two American journalists sentenced to 12 years' hard labor in North Korea once again begged the pariah nation to free their loved ones a day after Pyongyang released video it said incriminated the reporters.

    Appearing live on the "Today" show, the sister of Laura Ling and the husband of Euna Lee said they do not dispute North Korea's charges that the women ventured into the communist dictatorship, but asked for mercy. The plaintive appeal came a day after Pyongyang released the evidence it used to convict the women last week.

    "We have apologized both publicly and privately and we now hope that the North Korean government will show compassion and let the girls go home," Lisa Ling, a former host of ABC's "The View," told "Today."

    The evidence included videotape of Ling and Lee documenting their illicit  trip across the frozen Tumen River from China.

    "We've just entered a North Korean courtyard without permission," the Korean translation of their videotape narration said, according to North Korea's government-controlled news agency.

    Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, who work for former Vice President Al Gore's California-based Current TV media group, were sentenced last Monday to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison for illegal entry and "hostile acts.

    Michael Saldate, Euna Lee's husband and father of their four-year-old daughter Hannah, said he faces the grim prospect of marking their fifth wedding anniversary alone next week. 

    "The idea of spending that anniversary apart from her saddens me deeply," Saldate said, adding that he has done his best to reassure their little girl that "Mommy will be home soon." 

    Lisa Ling said it is important to separate the journalists' case from North Korea's isolation from the rest of the world, driven by its nuclear saber rattling and bellicose threats.

    Pyongyang released the evidence against Ling and Lee Tuesday, hours before President Obama met with South Korea's leader Lee Myung-bak and days after the U.N. Security Council issued new sanctions against North Korea for a May nuclear test. That raised fears the women were being used as political pawns.

    North Korea wants to remind the U.S. that the women remain in Pyongyang's hands, said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University.

    "The North is sending a message ahead of the summit: 'Don't take your eyes off this. This is a negotiating card we have,'" Kim said.