Lungren ramps up efforts for release of journalists

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), whose Sacramento district is home to one of the U.S. journalists convicted in North Korea this week, said Tuesday that he is ramping up efforts to secure their release.

American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were convicted by North Korea's highest court and sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp on Monday.

Lungren told the BBR that he has been in contact with the Ling family, who live in his district, "for sometime," but that he has refrained from any public statements until the process in North Korea played out.

"Now that we see that they've been subjected to basically a secret trial," Lungren said, "it seems to me that the whole world needs to speak out."

Lungren said he is stepping up his efforts to work with the State Department and administration to secure the release of the two journalists. In particular, he is signing onto a letter written by House Foreign Affairs Asia Subcommittee ranking member Ed Royce (R-Calif.) to the White House.

On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is pursuing "all possible ways" to rescue the journalists.

Reports have surfaced that former Vice President Al Gore, who co-founded the TV network both journalists were working for at the time of their arrest, may be sent to North Korea as an envoy. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who secured the release of Americans from North Korea in the 1990s, is another option.

But Lundgren noted that it is difficult to work with North Korea on issues like this.

"The North Korea government doesn't respect the rule of international law so you have to think of which ways are effective in influencing them," he said.

Lungren said he isn't holding back anymore, though, because the journalists did nothing wrong.

"This was not a criminal matter, this was a political matter," he said. "They are not criminals, they are innocents."

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