North Korea said today that two female American journalists whom it jailed last week had admitted to a smear campaign against the communist state. State media, giving its first details of their alleged crimes, said they crossed the border illegally "for the purpose of making animation files to be used for an anti-DPRK (North Korea) smear campaign over its human rights issue". A Pyongyang court on June 8 sentenced Laura Ling and Euna Lee to 12 years of "reform through labour" for the illegal border crossing and an unspecified "grave crime".
Border guards detained them on March 17 along the frontier with China while they were researching a story about refugees fleeing the hardline communist North. Relations between the North and the United States and its allies are at their worst for years following Pyongyang's nuclear test on May 25 and subsequent UN sanctions. The official Korean Central News Agency said the TV journalists at their trial had admitted to criminal acts intended to "isolate and stifle" the North's system "by faking up moving images aimed at falsifying its human rights performance and hurling slanders and calumnies at it".
It said the "criminals admitted and accepted the judgment", which cannot be appealed. The official agency added: "We are following with a high degree of vigilance the attitude of the US which spawned the criminal act against the DPRK." * AFP