They were sentenced after a closed-door trial for what the state-run North Korean news agency KCNA called the "grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing."
The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and Sweden represents U.S. interests there. The Swedish ambassador told the U.S. State Department that no observers were allowed in the courtroom for the trial, and the ambassador was allowed to see them only three times.
Several senior administration officials said the idea of sending either Gore or New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to Pyongyang on a mission to get the journalists released has been floated to the North Koreans.
No answer has come so far, but the expectation has been that once the trial ended, the North would accept a visit by either Gore or Richardson to secure the journalists' release, the officials said.
North Korea will probably release the reporters but not before the US pays a huge ransom.