After the March 17 arrest
by North Korean border officials of Lisa Ling's sister Laura Ling and Euna Lee for alleged "hostile acts," the families of the detained American journalists have been working quietly
with officials to secure their release. But as the June 4 trial date for the women approaches, the families have decided to speak publicly for the first time.
"It has been nearly three months since their arrest," a statement from the Ling and Lee families begins. "We have been holding our breath everyday as we've watched the political situation on the Korean Peninsula grow increasingly tense. Our loved ones sit in the midst of it. We desperately urge the governments of the United States and North Korea to keep our issue separate from the larger geopolitical stand-off
. We hope that our two countries can come together to secure the expeditious release of Laura and Euna on humanitarian grounds. Euna Lee is the mother of a four-year old daughter. And Laura was being treated for an ulcer prior to her departure, and in our limited communication with her we fear it has become more serious since her detainment and requires immediate medical attention."
Furthermore, "Laura and Euna are journalists who were simply doing their job," the statement continues. "They have been charged with 'illegal entry,' and 'hostility to the Korean nation.' We aren't certain of the details of what happened on March 17, but we can say with absolute certainty that when the girls left U.S. soil, they never intended to set foot onto North Korean territory. If at any point a transgression occurred, we sincerely apologize on their behalf."
The statement concludes, "We desperately hope that at the conclusion of the June 4 trial, the government of North Korea will show clemency and allow the girls to return home to their families. Our families have been comforted by the unexpected and overwhelming support for Laura and Euna. We would like to thank all of those individuals who are organizing to secure the release of the girls. We are humbled and deeply touched by your well-wishes and efforts."
Among their efforts, Lisa Ling and her family will make television appearances on Monday, including NBC's Today
show and CNN's Larry King Live
. On June 3, they will appear at a Los Angeles vigil for the women, one of many around the country taking place as the trial begins overseas. They will also meet with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Laura and Euna have had limited contact with their families since their arrest. Excerpts from one letter dated May 15 by Laura to Lisa were read at a recent vigil
. "When I first got here, I cried so much. Now, I cry less," the letter reads. "Some days I get to go outside and get some fresh air. In the early evening, I do some stretching. I also sit and meditate. I breathe deeply and think about positive things that have happened in the day. For example, I think 'I'm lucky I made it through another day.' I'm lucky my family is working so hard to get me released. I'm thinking of you constantly and how fortunate I am to have an amazing family. Stay strong and please take care of yourselves. That is my request. Know that I'm thinking of you and dreaming about being reunited with you all again."
It's a sentiment reflected by Lisa Ling's earnest Facebook status update Sunday night, which read, "I love you Laura."