North Korea's high court sentenced two American journalists to 12 years hard labor, alleging they crossed into the communist country illegally.
Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March near North Korea's border with China.
Ambassador Charles "Jack" Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, says he finds it difficult to believe North Korea will put two Americans into the same type of prison system that North Koreans endure.
"I would imagine that the North Koreans want the Americans to come out of there with less than horror stories to tell," he says.
Ling and Lee were also accused of "hostile acts" against North Korea, and Pritchard says the fact that the North Koreans used that term in the sentencing does not bode well.
"There seems to be a political linkage there, that their actions are in parallel to what they believe U.S. actions are," he says.
Pritchard says he believes the two journalists will be used politically by North Korea, whose May nuclear nuclear test is the subject of severe international scrutiny.
"There is not doubt that they will be used in a political fashion," he says.
Pritchard is pessimistic about the prospects for their release.
"The fact that they've been given a 12-year sentence is fairly severe and it certainly is not correspondent to the charges that were laid against them," he says. "I'm not optimistic at all that this is going to play out in a very favorable situation."