It was a writer for @timesonline, Ben MacIntyre, who noted a few weeks ago that the drama currently unfolding in North Korea was one worthy of Shakespeare. To wit, “Mad king (Kim Jong-il) attempts to secure succession for favored son (Kim Jong-un) by a show of strength, unleashing chaos.”
Unfortunately, into that mad kingdom, just ahead of the chaos, wandered @Current journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. On Tuesday, March 17th, whether by accident or the trickery of a paid-off Chinese guide, they are alleged to have stepped across an invisible border line at a bridge crossing between China and North Korea. Harsh interrogations and two and a half months of solitary confinement followed, and now, after a brief trial, an absurd sentence of 12 years of hard labor for illegally crossing the border and an unspecified “grave crime.”
The Shakespearean analogy is useful because it allows us, just slightly, to make sense of the unfathomable June 8th Ling–Lee verdict. Kim Jong-il is indeed pushing it to the limit on the diplomatic, nuclear and innocent Americans fronts, all in a bid to reassure the country’s military hard liners that a Kim Jong-un succession will maintain the Amy-first status quo. (According to analysts, this sort of political climate makes it especially hard for anyone in a position of power in North Korea to currently speak up in favor of clemency for Ling, Lee.)
Despite repeated pleas by sister Lisa Ling and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the morphing regime of Kim Jong-il has chosen to marry the fates of Laura Ling and Euna Lee to their broader game of all-in, high stakes political poker. The brain trust is going for broke, with hopes perhaps of obtaining a cash-rich normalization deal from the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
In the meantime, the only “grave crime” when it comes to Laura Ling and Euna Lee has been committed by North Korea; the “Dear Leader” and his dear followers are guilty of subjecting two lovely, vibrant young American women to seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months of excruciating psychological torture.