Lisa Ling's Family 'Shocked and Devastated'

Lisa Ling's Family 'Shocked and Devastated'
Lisa and Laura Ling
Steve Grayson/WireImage

06/08/2009 AT 07:30 PM EDT

Family members made an emotional plea for mercy and offered to apologize to North Korea after Lisa Ling's sister and a friend were sentenced to 12 years hard labor for illegal border crossing.

"The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are shocked and devastated by the outcome their trial," they say in a statement. "Laura and Euna are journalists who went to the China-North Korea border to do a job. We don't know what really happened on March 17, but if they wandered across the border without permission, we apologize on their behalf and we are certain that they have also apologized."

The families say they're "very concerned about their mental state and wellbeing," noting Ling has a "serious medical condition" – a stomach ulcer – "that is sure to be exacerbated by the drastic sentence."

Lee, they say, has a 4-year-old daughter who is "displaying signs of anguish over the absence of her mother."

"We believe that the three months they have already spent under arrest with little communication with their families is long enough," they say. "We ask the Government of North Korea to show compassion and grant Laura and Euna clemency and allow them to return home to their families."

Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, who report for former Vice President Al Gore's media venture Current TV, were sentenced by the Central Court of North Korea to 12 years in a labor camp. North Korea's official news agency said they were sentenced for a "grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing."

As Lisa tells PEOPLE today, "We don't really know how to react because it sounds really scary and yet we are hoping and praying there is a way to come to a resolution that results in a release. There is nothing else we can say. We miss them terribly [but] we do feel confident that the State Department is doing everything that they can."

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