North Korea has confirmed that it’s detaining two journalists it may have nabbed before they had even crossed the border from Chinese territory. The two women, Chinese-American Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee, were accused of ignoring warnings to stop filming across the Tumen river.
From the New York Times:
North Korea confirmed Saturday that it had detained two American journalists on charges of “illegally intruding” into the North through its border with China…
“A competent organ is now investigating the case,” the North’s official news agency, KCNA, said.
The terse dispatch, which gave no details, was the first confirmation by North Korea of the arrests.
Both were working on a reporting trip for Current TV, the Al Gore-funded cable news channel in the U.S. that feature three-to-seven minute programs, much of which is “user-generated” content. Laura Ling had previously filmed an expose on the booming sex trade in China, one of the best segments we’ve seen about the matter.
It remains unclear under what circumstances Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee were detained. The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s leading newspaper, reported Saturday that the American television crew appeared to have crossed the river border — either intentionally or not — while trying to get a closer shot of North Korea.
Citing Chinese sources on the border, the newspaper reported that the three American journalists and their Chinese guide, an ethnic Korean, crossed the border around sunrise on Tuesday near Tumen, a Chinese border city.
The Tumen River, which forms the border, is only 20 or 30 yards wide in the area, according to human rights advocates who have visited there. Much of the river bed is dry, and the shallow water is frozen at this time of the year. It is difficult to tell where the border lies, and North Korean guards often stay hidden in bunkerlike guard posts, they said.
The two men in the group, Mr. Koss and the guide, who was not identified, freed themselves from the armed North Korean soldiers and ran back to China, while the two women were overpowered, The Chosun Ilbo reported.
Their arrest adds to the already tense relations between North Korea and the U.S. Since China has been trying hard to become friends with each side – hosting both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and DPRK Premier Kim Yong-Il in the last month – it will be interesting to see what Beijing will say on the topic… if it does say anything.
In the meantime, our hearts go out to these women and their families. We hope their ordeal ends well and soon.