SEOUL, South Korea — One video recorder, six tapes, a digital camera and a stone. North Korea laid out its evidence Tuesday against two American journalists sentenced to hard labor for entering the country illegally.
The country's official news agency reported that the journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, documented their journey into communist North Korea, even pocketing a stone to commemorate the illicit trip across the frozen Tumen River from China.
"We've just entered a North Korean courtyard without permission," the Korean translation of their videotape narration said, according to Korean Central News Agency.
Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, who work for former Vice President Al Gore's California-based Current TV media group, were sentenced last Monday to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison for illegal entry and "hostile acts."
Before Tuesday's report, little was known publicly about the journalists' arrest March 17.
The timing of its release — just hours before President Barack Obama met with South Korea's leader Lee Myung-bak and days after the U.N. Security Council issued new sanctions against North Korea for a May nuclear test — raised fears the women were being used as political pawns.
North Korea wants to remind the U.S. that the women remain in Pyongyang's hands, said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University.
"The North is sending a message ahead of the summit: 'Don't take your eyes off this. This is a negotiating card we have,' " Kim said.
KCNA said it released the report to "let the world know crimes committed by Americans at a time when an unprecedented confrontation with the United States has been created on the Korean peninsula."