The Obama administration would like to turn its full foreign policy attention to the Middle East today. But as last week's nuclear test reveals, North Korea remains the country that will not fall off the crisis radar. Last night, candlelight vigils were held in at least nine American cities to call for the release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two CurrentTV journalists arrested in March on the North Korean border and who are to go on trial today in Pyongyang. A guilty verdict is considered likely, and the two could face five to ten years in a labor camp.
The journalists' plight is one delicate aspect of negotiations at the U.N., which is considering cracking down on the trade of luxury goods into North Korea. One rationale is that Kim Jong Il, known for his love of fine wine, exotic seafood, and tropical fruits, could at last share in the deprivation that has afflicted so many of his countrymen. And according to U.N. reports, this deprivation may only be growing. In May, a U.N. World Food Program spokesperson claimed that North Korea was only receiving 14% of the food resources needed to feed a majority of its 8.7 million people.
The crisis gains added urgency when one considers the militaristic calls this week by the American right to launch strikes against North Korea. Such a move would surely not help the captured journalists, though it could further inflame the nuclear ambitions of the North Korean leadership, set to soon include Kim Jong Il's reported successor, his son Kim Jong Un.
Watch the Global Pulse episode on the latest North Korean developments here.