Pyongyang tries two American journalists. They risk 10 years of prison
Laura Ling and Lee Seung-eun are charges with illegally entering North Korea and “hostile acts”. Analysts explain that the trial is part of Pyongyang’s political game to gain greater political and economic concessions from the Obama administration. South Korean citizens are “indifferent” to the communist regime’s nuclear threat.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – This afternoon in Pyongyang – at 3 pm local time – the trial against two American journalists of Korean origins began, originally charged with “illegally entering” North Korea and “hostile acts”.

Laura Ling and Lee Seung-eun appeared before the Central Court, the highest judicial body, in the capital.  The official stage agency Korea Central News Agency (Kcna) did not specify the charges levelled against them, only saying the trial will proceed "on the basis of the indictment already brought against them”. If found guilty, the two women face up to 10 years in a labour camp.

International analysts believe the trial to be a message from the North to the US administration.  It could reveal the North’s desire for dialogue with Barack Obama, to negotiate their release in exchange for economic aid and political concessions.

Pyongyang’s show of strength in recent weeks, its nuclear tests and the short-range missile launch, could also be part of a political game aimed at gaining greater resources for a nation that invests enourmous amounts of its capital in arms, but whose popoulation in many areas is reduced to hunger.

The repeated threats from the North’s communist regime however have provoked indifference from citizens of the South, well used to Pyongyang’s declarations and far more concerned with the current economic crisis rather than the nuclear issue.

Koh Yu-hwan, professor in Seouls Dongguk University, explains that “the Korean Peninsula has been divided for a long time and threats from the North are a common issue”. The academic adds that the indifference is also justified by the fact that “the North is not in a position to start a war” and the missile tests do not pose “an immediate threat”.  Michael Breen, a columnist with Korea Times, points out that  “The widespread assumption is that North Korea is bluffing. The second assumption is that the nuclear issue is something between North Korea and the United States” and it is “a war on the Korean Peninsula is unlikely to occur”.

Even among ordinary people the general feeling is indifference, while a strong sense of solidarity with the civilian population prevails: “After all, - comment a group of housewives - the South and North Koreans are brothers and sisters.   We are one people. We should put an end to war. We need trust in one another”. (TK)