A family member of one of the U.S. journalists jailed in North Korea said the 12-year sentence imposed on the two women is "worst-case scenario" and described the painstaking heartache the families have endured.
"It was a mix of my heart breaking and just shock," Laura Ling's cousin, Angie Wang, said on the "Today" show. "Definitely worst-case scenario."
"Until they're home we're not going to feel a sense of comfort," she said.
U.S. & World
Current TV reporters Laura Ling, the sister of TV reporter Lisa Ling, and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years hard labor for "hostile acts" against North Korea.
The families of the two journalists have begged the North Korean government not to send their loved ones to the horrid labor camps that have a ghastly death rate - and expressed concern that their loved ones could become political pawns as relations between the U.S. and North Korea deteriorate.
"I remain hopeful that the U.S. government is doing everything it can.. to bring Laura and Euna home safe," Wang said today.
Ling, 32, has a serious stomach ulcer and Lee's 4-year-old daughter has been showing "signs of anguish over the absence of her mother," according to a statement from the families released earlier this week.
The reporters were arrested along the China-North Korea border on March 17 when they were working for Al Gore's television station, Current TV.
Punishment can range from beatings to public humiliation and forced abortions, the international organizations said.
"They just beat the hell out of these people," T. Kuman, an Amnesty International expert on North Korean's human rights record told the New York Daily News.
The camps have a high death rate and lack adequate food and medical supplies.