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What's The North Korean Version Of Kabuki?

Whatever it is, Laura Ling and Euna Lin--the two American journalists recently arrested by the North Koreans on the country's border with China--are now caught up in it:

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency accused the two of “illegal entry" and said, "their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements, according to the results of intermediary investigation conducted by a competent organ.”

"The organ is carrying on its investigation and, at the same time, making a preparation for indicting them at a trial on the basis of the already confirmed suspicions," it said.

This was the first reported case in which a U.S. citizen will be indicted and tried in North Korea, South Korean officials said. The North’s criminal code calls for between 5 and 10 years of "education through labor" for people convicted of "hostile acts" against the state.

In a "severe" case, the code allows more than 10 years in labor camp.

The weird thing about all this, though, is that because North Korea is actually a state--albeit a rogue one--it's probable that Ling and Lin will be released. The North Koreans will use their capture as a bargaining chip; American diplomats will jump through whatever hoops the North Koreans set up for them; and that will be that. So, in a way, this beats being captured by the FARC or the Taliban or a Mexican drug cartel. Still, it has to be hell for Ling and Lin's families.

--Jason Zengerle