In what is sure to inflame relations between the hardline South Korean government and its neighbor, North Korea, the North announced today that two South Korean citizens detained inside the hermit kingdom on charges of spying have been officially sentenced to hard labor for life, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification.

The arrests of Kim Kuk-gi and Choe Chun-gil were announced by North Korea in March. The two are among four South Koreans confirmed to be imprisoned by the communist country.

North Korea alleges that former missionary Kim, and businessman Choe, were spying for South Korea’s intelligence service. It has accused them of committing “terrorism” and bringing in “large quantities of forged currency,” a North Korean official said anonymously in March.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has repeatedly denied either of the men were working for it.

With government minders present, the two gave a lengthy staged interview to CNN in march, during which they gave elaborate confessions, each with similar talking points.

It is likely that the two men are being used as pawns in the political power struggle between the isolated North and the prosperous South.

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