They do become bargaining chips... North Korea will send them home, but it will not happen quickly. The North Koreans want to show the world that illegally crossing their border will not be tolerated and they want to squeeze political and financial concessions from the United States.I wrote my earlier screed before I'd even seen what Professor Lankov had to say, so it's interesting that we are of the same mind on this (although it's really not much of a head-scratcher).
According to South Korean intelligence, Lee and Ling walked across the Tumen River, bordering China and North Korea, at 3 a.m. last Tuesday. The narrow river is a frequent escape route for refugees and the journalists wanted a closer look at North Korea.Oh, yeah, and screw you both for making me have to agree with the DPRK that you both deserve to have your asses under arrest for violating their border security. Any country would have a right to do that, even the murderous North Korean regime. Oh, that just makes me really mad.
Sources said the journalists first wanted to stay on the Chinese side, but then their journalistic urge for a scoop led them to chance a border crossing. As their Chinese guide lingered slightly behind, Lee and Ling were stopped by a North Korean soldier.
According to the sources, the North Korean soldier at first assumed the journalists were Koreans. But their passports and other ID cards revealed them to be American citizens. The capture of the Americans was immediately reported to the North’s Defense Security Command and to the Ninth Army Corps, which is in charge of North Hamgyong Province, where the Tumen River flows.
After being questioned at the security command, Lee and Ling were reportedly taken to Pyongyang last Wednesday. Each was put in a separate vehicle so that there would be no communication between them. According to South Korean sources, the journalists are being questioned at closed-off quarters under the auspices of the command near Pyongyang. One source said, “Our intelligence tells us that since this involved border security, the command wants to physically detain the journalists.” Another source said there is also a distinct possibility that once the current round of questioning is complete, the journalists will be handed over to the National Security Defense Agency, the North’s top intelligence unit.