Lee and Ling, reporters for Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV, were arrested on North Korea's border with China for allegedly illegally crossing into the country. North Korea's highest court convicted the pair and threw the book at them with a 12-year sentenced in a hard labor camp.
Since then, the two have had little contact with their families. That was until Sunday, when they both had the chance to speak with their husbands by phone.
On Tuesday night, during a vigil in support for the pair's release, their husbands told the group of their brief, tough conversations with their wives.
"To hear her on the phone to hear the panic and desperation it was one of the hardest things I've ever heard in my life," Lee's husband, Michael Saldate, said.
Ling's husband, Iain Clayton, said his wife sounded strong, but scared when he spoke with her Sunday night.
"I could tell she was trying her hardest to be strong for us," Clayton said, "But it wasn't her normal voice. I could tell that she was scared and that she's terrified. It was a difficult conversation. One of the hardest things I've had to do."
She described her confinement as "bearable," Clayton said.
Ling and Lee told their husbands they are now in a medical facility because of their deteriorating health. Ling has an inflamed ulcer and Lee has lost 15 pounds.
The vigil was held on the campus of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where Lee received a bachelor's degree.