North Korea is "seriously interested" in releasing two convicted American journalists but first wants the United States to acknowledge what Pyongyang sees as their "hostile acts," a U.S.-based scholar who visited Pyongyang said Saturday.
University of Georgia political scientist Han S. Park said "responsible" North Korean officials told him the two journalists have not been sent to a prison labor camp and are being kept at a guesthouse in Pyongyang.
"I also think the fact that the sentence has not been carried out suggests that North Koreans are seriously interested in releasing them if the situation warrants," Park said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Park arrived in Seoul on Thursday via China after what he said was a five-day trip to Pyongyang. He said he had an "extensive discussion" with the North Korean officials, but emphasized he was there in a private capacity and not representing the U.S. government.
Park, a frequent visitor to North Korea for academic purposes, described the guesthouse as a "decent, luxurious accommodation."
He said the North Korean officials think the journalists’ reporting constituted "hostile acts" against the country because it would have cast the country in a negative light.
Still, the officials have made sure the reporters "are treated with a great deal of humanitarian concern" such as ensuring the delivery of medication sent from their families and allowing them to make phone calls to the U.S., the scholar said.
The North Koreans said the U.S. government should offer "a remorseful acknowledgment" of the reporters’ actions, according to Park. He said that would help resolve the issue, though still may not fully guarantee their release.
According to CNN, the United States has dropped its request that two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea be released on humanitarian grounds, and is seeking amnesty instead, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. A plea for amnesty implies forgiveness for some offense.
Geez, what more do they want? Should be interesting to see what else they are seeking. Now I feel they will be released soon.