As I’m sure you all know, American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been released from captivity in North Korea and have returned home. From BBC News:
US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee told their families they had no intention of entering North Korea when they went to the border with China to report on the plight of North Korean refugees.
Laura Ling (L) and Euna Lee (R) looked very relieved to be leaving Pyongyang
But on 17 March they were seized by North Korean border guards and accused of illegally entering the country to carry out “hostile acts”.
After more than four months in captivity, a high-level visit from former US President Bill Clinton secured their release.
Euna Lee and Laura Ling are journalists with San Francisco-based Current TV, a media venture co-founded by former US Vice-President Al Gore.
Ms Ling, a 32-year-old California native, has experience covering the conflict in Sri Lanka, Brazilian slave labour and Iran’s underground youth culture.
Ms Lee, a 36-year-old South Korean-born US citizen, is an editor with Current TV.
From the time they were captured, the two women’s families urged the authorities in Pyongyang to release them, saying they were worried about the “mental state and wellbeing” of the pair.
In a joint statement, the families said Ms Ling suffered from an ulcer and that Ms Lee had a four-year-old daughter who was “displaying signs of anguish”.
“We believe that the three months they have already spent under arrest with little communication with their families is long enough,” the statement said.
Ms Ling’s husband, Iain Clayton, appeared on US TV networks and read out a letter she had written from captivity: “While I am trying to remain hopeful, each day becomes harder and harder to bear. I am so lonely and scared.”
Their hopes appeared dashed in early June when a quick trial saw them convicted and sentenced to 12 years of “reform through labour”.
Initially, there were denials from the American side that they had gone into North Korea – and both South Korean media and diplomatic sources said the North’s guards had crossed into Chinese territory to arrest them.
But a few days after their trial, the North’s state media said the two had admitted entering the North and accepted their sentences.
Official news agency KCNA also said they had admitted getting footage for a “smear campaign” about North Korea’s human rights.
Their sentences could potentially have seen the two women working in a prison labour camp in North Korea’s notoriously brutal penal system.
It seems, however, that the two were well-treated and kept in a Pyongyang guest house, with access to consular services provided by Sweden’s embassy in North Korea and allowed to make several phone calls to their families in the US.
North Korea and China share an 880 mile (1,400 km) border
It was during these phone calls that the pair said Pyongyang had suggested that a visit by Mr Clinton could secure their freedom, US officials have said.
Analysts say they were probably being kept as bargaining chips to wrest concessions or direct talks with the United States.
But the US has said Mr Clinton did not discuss any other issues other than the women’s freedom during his trip to Pyongyang.
The reporters’ families, and officials in Washington, had urged that Pyongyang keep this case separate from the nuclear issue bedevilling relations between North Korea and the US.
Washington insists it will only hold bilateral talks on the nuclear stalemate with Pyongyang under the auspices of the stalled six-party negotiations – which also include South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
Tensions in the region have soared in recent months, as North Korea has conducted a nuclear test and fired a long-range missile, drawing widespread international condemnation.
Out of all of this, what totally blows my mind? Al Gore is the chairman of Current TV!? I fucking love Current. Not that I dislike Al Gore (except for the saving the polar bears part. Seriously, fuck polar bears), but now I just feel weird. How did I not know this before? Well, I guess they’re not going to cut into a show and just be like, “HEY! Al Gore owns us”!
Current is still freaking awesome though. In case you’ve missed the boat on that one, Current TV is an alternative news channel with a great deal of viewer created content. Everything from news to podcasts to commercials…they do it all.
Check it out sometime. It’s a nice change of pace from the regular news.