Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Poking at Pyongyang

Media reports about Lee Seung-Eun (리승은 Euna Lee) & Laura Ling have been unfairly inflammatory. These two 'journalists' were arrested while unreasonably probing the Chinese / DPRK (North Korea) border on 17 March 2009.

To illegally cross the border, or even to be close enough that North Korean guards could grab them, was dumb. They were in a controlled area, and are now convicted provocateurs. Certainly we want them back as soon as possible; they and their families must be suffering terribly.

Who are these women? They were clearly in a dangerous place, with producer-cameraman Mitchell 'Mitch' Koss and a North Korean-born naturalized Chinese guide (who both evaded North Korean capture, but were subsequently detained by the Chinese; Koss was quickly released and returned to the USA a few days after the incident). Koss before has traveled the full length of this North Korean border (see his LA Times report from 2003). For what reasons were inexperienced women sent into danger? (Some facts emerge in a 30 March 2009 article by Barbara Demick). Why no clear statements from Koss - the direct witness who abandoned them? Most press coverage shows bias, and facts have been woefully inadequate.

Within hours of this incident, a Japanese man with wire cutters was arrested by the South Korean military attempting to break through the North Korean border. (A video report in Japanese is here). Strange goings-on for a highly-dangerous area!

The best strategy available for these women is to beg for mercy & clemency.

Update: It is unhelpful that in 2006 the older sister of imprisoned Laura Ling, Lisa Ling, infiltrated North Korea with hidden cameras posing as part of a medical relief team; the resulting National Geographic production "Undercover in North Korea" was highly critical of the DPRK. http://epicanthus.net/2009/06/08/larry-king-live/