Laura Ling & Euna Lee sentenced to 12 years in North Korean labor camp

2005 Summer Current TV Television Critics Press Tour - Day 7
Laura Ling, Al Gore and Gotham Chopra. Credit: Getty Images
Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling (sister of Lisa) have been sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in North Korea. Their “crime” was allegedly crossing the border from China to North Korea. Considering North Korea is one of the least press-accessible parts of the world, all we really know is that the two women were detained very close to the border, and that they faced some kind of trial in North Korea, but no one really knows if the women were allowed representation, or were able to present their cases whatsoever.

One of the many screwed up things about this whole situation is that the American diplomatic corps literally has no presence in North Korea. The only confirmation the families have been able to get about the fates of these two women is through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang. People has more from the families:

At first, no news over the weekend almost seemed promising for Lisa Ling – whose sister, Laura Ling, and friend, Euna Lee – had been arrested by North Korean military on the Chinese border March 17 and faced trial on June 4 for alleged “hostile acts.” As Lisa tweeted on Friday, “Trying to believe that Laura and Euna have won some hearts over, hence the silence.”

But on Sunday, June 7, CNN reported that the Korean Central News Agency said the women had been sentenced to 12 years in labor camps “for the grave crime they committed against the Korean nation and their illegal border crossing.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelley said in a statement, “We are deeply concerned by the reported sentencing of the two American citizen journalists by North Korean authorities, and we are engaged through all possible channels to secure their release. We once again urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two American citizen journalists on humanitarian grounds.”

For three months, the Ling and Lee families had been working quietly to secure the release of Laura and Euna but broke their silence May 31, on the eve of the week of the trial.

In a joint statement, the families pleaded for the “expeditious release of Laura and Euna on humanitarian grounds,” stressing, “Euna Lee is the mother of a 4-year old daughter. And Laura was being treated for an ulcer prior to her departure, and in our limited communication with her we fear it has become more serious since her detainment and requires immediate medical attention.”

The statement also read: “We aren’t certain of the details of what happened on March 17, but we can say with absolute certainty that when the girls left U.S. soil, they never intended to set foot onto North Korean territory. If at any point a transgression occurred, we sincerely apologize on their behalf.”

On Wednesday, June 3, Euna Lee’s husband Michael Saldate, Laura Ling’s husband Iain Clayton, Lisa Ling and their families attended a grassroots vigil in Santa Monica for the women, one of many around the country. An emotional Lisa told PEOPLE, “It is very surreal to be part of a story, especially when it is your little sister and your best friend. For me, my sister is an incredible journalist. She is a wife and an adult but she’s still my little sister and to feel this helpless has been the most debilitating experience of my life.”

However, Lisa and her family prefer to think about the political opportunity presented by the plight of Laura and Euna. “We would champion the opportunity to have these girls be the catalyst for diplomacy,” Lisa said. “I think it could be really amazing. The problem right now is that our two countries don’t have a diplomatic relationship and so communication has been really limited. We are trying to encourage our two countries to come together and if this is the reason why they do, then we’ll take it.”

Although the Ling and Lee families had hoped the women’s fate would not be tied in to ongoing tensions related to North Korea’s testing of nuclear missiles, analysts seem to think the sentence will help serve as a bargaining chip. In an interview with the Associated Press, Yang Moo-jin, a North Korean studies professor at Seoul University, said the prison sentence has “paved the way for a political pardon and a diplomatic solution.”

[From People]

The part about “they never intended to set foot onto North Korean territory” is interesting. I wonder if that’s true, or if that’s the defense the State Department is taking when the fate of these women is potentially negotiated. I tend to think the statement “If at any point a transgression occurred, we sincerely apologize on their behalf” was written by some diplomat. CNN was reporting over the weekend that Gov. Bill Richardson and/or Al Gore are being mentioned as potential special envoys that should/will be sent to negotiate the release of these women. It’s sad that these women will be used as a bargaining chip in further negotiations, but, on the plus side, I doubt the women will have to spend to much time in jail.


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91 Responses to “Laura Ling & Euna Lee sentenced to 12 years in North Korean labor camp”

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  1. wonder woman says:

    Don’t worry! Lisa is Oprah’s home girl and Oprah is Barack’s home girl and if anyone can get her out, it’s Obama! :-)….i hope!

  2. czarina says:

    Frankly, I am finding this whole story very confusing. What is it, exactly, that the two women have been accused of doing? (Aside from crossing the border which is clearly a separate issue).
    And does anyone notice that there seems to be a distinct lack of the US gov. outrage over this? They are not trying to have the women released on the grounds that they have been unjustly imprisioned, but on “humanitarian” grounds (which, if that is all they have, they are in trouble–if a North Korean were convicted of a crime in the US, I doubt they would be released simply because they had children or an ulcer).
    All in all, the whole thing seems strange to me.
    Gore had “no comment” yesterday…which could mean one wasn’t prepared, or that he was trying to distance himself from association with this.
    All in all, it is quite a puzzle. What have these women been covicted of doing?? Did they do it? Did it deserve the harsh penalty it was given? Is it all a politically driven game to gain leverage with the US?
    Whatever the answer, my heart goes out to their families, who must be feeling so terrified and helpless.
    I hope Kaiser is right and, one way or another, these women will find a way home.

  3. wow says:

    it’s interesting how carefully they issued the statements, calling them “girls” and making is sound like they went backpacking and must have accidently crossed into N.Korea. Clever and hopefully effective…

  4. I Choose Me says:

    A puzzling story, so many vague details. Was it simply the ‘crime’ of an illegal border crossing or is their more to it? In any case I hope those working on their behalf are able to secure their release.

  5. Embee says:

    This must be agonizing for their familes, not to mention for the prisoners themselves. God bless.

  6. M.E. says:

    Helloooo, people . . .this is NORTH KOREA we’re talking about, not Washington vs. Hollywood. Oprah has as much clout there as my dog. Those reporters probably won’t be there for 12 years, but it’s a very scary situation.

  7. viper says:

    I watch CNN all the time these two are my favorite reporters and I am absolutely shocked at how little cnn is doing for them. They are harmless and never went for anything but truth. Discusting. This reflects badly upon cnn whom I always regarded as one of the few actual news networks that were reliable.

  8. Linda says:

    Sorry – but this is STUPIDITY at it’s finest here! Are you telling me that 2 so-called intelligent women didn’t protect themselves enough to stay away from the North Korean boarder??? How freaking stupid can you be?

  9. X says:

    I think they should serve time in jail or in a labor camp.

    They were warned previous to this, not to enter or ATTEMPT to enter North Korea.

    They knew what they were doing, and Lee should have have been a bit more wary since she had more to lose, considering she left her 4 year old daughter at home to “investigate” & write about a country that basically doesn’t want anyone investigating & writing about their activities.

    I couldn’t feel less interest for their situation. Real people have accidentally wandered into areas they were not allowed, & they are jailed for years, and the US sure, makes attempts (when forced) to bring them back home or help mediate a situation.

    In this case, they should serve their sentence & we should not potentially harm our already tentative rapport w/North Korea for these bumbling DUMB journalists.

    Lisa Ling? Hello, you let a little girl suffer & die alone in an orphanage, and you sat back, filmed her crying alone, dying of starvation & her illness.

    In her interview w/the view, she had footage of this sick little girl, left in another room, in the dark, not to be fed, and left to die. She FILMED IT. SHE PROVIDED COMMENTARY

    She stated, that as a journalist, you sit back & observe. Well lets observe your sister shall we? Let us, sit back & watch your all-knowing sister, who forged ahead despite all warnings, and who now is trying so hard to get everyone involved…let us watch her serve her rightfully deserved sentence.

    Sorry, double standards are so obnoxious in my book.

  10. Kaiser says:

    When the news of their capture first came out, I believe the N. Koreans accused the two women of espionage.

    I think the fact that they’re Americans who crossed the border was enough of a “crime” for N. Korea.

  11. popo says:

    You guys need to study some north Korea stuff, you don’t mess with north korea. No one is allowed in and no one is allowed out, no cameras.
    The dictator decides what the north koreans see, read and watch on tv. They are taught to hate Americans.
    This is not like the great free counties, this is a dictatorship and the people have no rights, the korean citizens, you think Americans will have rights over there?

  12. Kelly says:

    Like Oprah or CNN could do anything, I don’t even think Obama can do anything.
    We are talking North Korea.
    They did not accidentally cross the border, they were working on their story, the accidentlly part is to try to help them get out of trouble.

  13. Sarah says:

    The story and the Al Gore/U.S. gov’t reaction is vague, confusing and seemingly inadequate (according to some of the previous commenters here) because this is what the various experts have advised be done. They are trying to secure release of women being held by one of the most notorious regimes in the world that is also suspected of having nuclear weapons (or at least trying to get them). It has been a purposeful strategy to keep things quiet and not say much publicly. The relative silence doesn’t mean they aren’t negotiating like mad behind the scenes. Saying the wrong thing could set the efforts backwards, especially such a wacky regime. Condemning the regime in harsh words and drawing press attention to it in a lot of instances won’t help the situation at all.

  14. Meimei says:

    Oh, such smart women… Ugh. They really are paying for their stupidity, but…

    I seriously doubt they’re going to get even a tenth of the shit the locals get: they are valuable, bargaining chips. At the moment DPRK has no friends. Sure, China maintains relations with it, but there’s no love lost between them; it’s just that Kim’s DPRK, as bad as it is, has been better than an unstable region with power-hungry folks and who-knows-what weapons…

    As long as the US government keeps communicating and to an extent placating Kim and his buddies Ling and Lee should be _reasonably_ safe.

  15. Lem says:

    I don’t quite believe it’s possible to accidentally cross a N. Korea Border.

    if it were me over there; the U.S. gov. wouldn’t be in any communication what-so-ever.

    smells fishy. I believe someone’s cover has been blown.

  16. czarina says:

    X9–I do understand the point that you are making regarding the actions of journalists. It does seem as if they use the whole “people have a right to know” line as if it were some kind of sheild from the demands of being human and compassionate.
    I don’t know anything about Lisa Ling or the filming of that child in the orphanage.
    Where I must disagree with you, though, is saying that if a country tells you to stay out, then you should just listen to them no matter what they might be doing there.
    As you must know, some countries around the world do terrible, horrendous things to people.
    Msny journalists have risked their lives, paid with their lives, to bring the attention of the world to places where people–innocent people–have been starving to death, being turned out of their homes, being eradicated for their race or religion.
    As human beings, it is NOT okay for us to bury our heads in the sand and say “Yeah, but that’s happening over there to THEM…it’s not our problem”.
    (an attitude which allowed millions to die in the Holocaust).
    Whatever the motivation of journalists themselves, they do a very valuable service for the world.
    If you have never lived in a country that has no freedom of press or speech, you cannot imagine what it is like.
    Bringing the world’s attention to places like North Korea is important, though you may not think so. When the world is focused on a country, when there is pressure from the world, things can change.
    I am not sure of the circumstances regarding these two journalists, what they did, why or what it means.
    If they WERE working for the US government (espionage or spying), it would have to be handled very, very carefully by the US (with nothing admitted, ever.)

  17. goaheadandyellatme... says:

    I can’t breathe after reading “X”‘s comment…and he/she is ABSOLUTELY right. Chilling, but true.

  18. dubdub2000 says:

    yeah, see I don’t get what all the hoohaa is about. They went to a foreign country illegally to report on sh*t that the local government doesnt want anyone to know. In North Korea that’s = to being ennemy of the state by default. So they got caught, well at least they didnt get killed which could have easily happened. I mean this aint a game,this isn’t hollywood land, the NOrth Korean government isnt playing in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 40 odd years.

    You want to be an investigative journalist, it’s going to be risky. you get caught? you get shot? you get killed? Comes with the territory: don’t expect your government to come and save your a** you KNEW exactly what you were getting into.

    Remembering NOW that one of them has a 4 year old daughter is a bit late. If she was that concerned about it she would have never gone there in the first place.

    If I feel sorry for anybody here, if there is any injustice at all, it’s for that poor kid who never asked to be abandoned by her mother for her own little vanity project.

    To draw a parallel, it’s a if some North korean party journalist decided to cross into the US illegally and go report on the CIA or something like that. Where do you think he would end up? One word: Guantanamo.

    So yeah they get the same, big deal.

    I know I sound callous but I have zero sympathy for journalists who put themselves into dangerous situations and then cry faul when they get busted, wounded, kidnapped, what have you. That press pass doesnt give any rights that regular humans dont have. It does not give you super powers. Andno you won’t get any representative and richard gere or Bono or Oprah arent going to come and save you , wtf?! It’s the real world people, and it can kick your a** for real!

  19. nina says:

    12 years is an awfully long time to sit in jail — doing hard time.

    this is really sad. my heart goes out to the girls and their families. we can only hope that these girls come home much sooner than that. what a sad day it is — to hear such a story.

  20. I guess this is the price of the pursuit of truth?

    It seems so f*cked up and wrong. . .

    Twelve years is a long time in jail – even longer in a third world country. As a woman, I shudder to think of the inhumane treatment and unwanted attention both women will undoubtedly receive. Most third world nations treat their women akin to livestock. Absolutely disgusting.

    Kind thoughts circulating their way.

  21. KDRockstar says:

    While I feel bad for the families, I have been to the area and know that there is no way to “accidentally” traverse into North Korea.

    It would have been a major coup for them, as journalists, to get the scoop if they got in and got out. But, from my own experience, we are talking bribes and false identities. They got busted, and this is the cost.

    I am glad that it is bringing more media and human attention to North Korea. It is the country that everyone on the planet should fear.

  22. lisa says:

    X hit it right on the head. Incredibly sad, but so true. When you are told to stay away or there will be consequences…you might want to listen.

  23. Tess says:


    You mean tyrants and dictators around the world haven’t jumped onto the “Hope and Change” train?

  24. Ana says:

    Celebitchy makes me hate the weekend because it’s not updated! lol.

    Anyway this is horrible. But I wonder what exactly they are doing over there? I was in South Korea after I graduated from high school to visit friends. They took us to many different places and one of the places they wanted us to see was the border. Not to cross it or anything. But we still refused to go. Better safe than sorry.

  25. Tess says:

    And the rank hypocrisy of so many journalists is breathtaking. just hope nobody in the military has to risk his/her neck to rescue these “beautiful people” with friends in high places.

  26. Meimei says:


    Yes. Fear, and also pity. Well, fear the leaders and pity the public.

    It’s sad how badly humans can mess things up. After all, the older Kim was originally trying to save* the same people that are now reduced to eating each other to survive.

    *He was a guerilla leader during the Japanese occupation, which was another fine mess in every imaginable way.

    Damn. I don’t want to identify as a human being any more.

  27. Chicamorena says:

    How in the world does one enter one of the most repressive countries on the planet “by accident”?

  28. barneslr says:

    Further proof that North Korea is a terrorist state. Imprisoning 2 young women for a reasonably minor offense?

    I don’t care what anyone else has posted here; this is simply an evil act by an evil government, pure and simple. We should all feel a sense of outrage on their behalves and the world community should condemn this horrific act. They should be freed; I suspect after all they’ve been through they’ve learned their lesson and would be happy to stay far, far away from that hellhole.

  29. Meimei says:


    All I can do is to quote dubdub2000:

    “To draw a parallel, it’s a if some North korean party journalist decided to cross into the US illegally and go report on the CIA or something like that. Where do you think he would end up? One word: Guantanamo.”

    North Korea is totally, absolutely, ridiculously effed up, but is it really the only place where people could get incarcerated for these kinds of things?

  30. b says:


  31. Annie says:


    I refuse to agree with some of the comments that they deserve to get put into HARD LABOR FOR 12 YEARS for something like this.

    They’re human beings with FAMILIES for godsakes, what is wrong with some of you? They didn’t kill someone or kidnap or even drug traffic. From what we can tell, they just went one too many inches in the wrong direction. It probably wasn’t on “accident” but still. The punishment does not fit the crime and a terrorist state should not be allowed to continue such barbarism.

    Agreed with Barnes.

  32. Meimei says:

    “I refuse to agree with some of the comments that they deserve to get put into HARD LABOR FOR 12 YEARS for something like this.”

    No, they don’t. It is a ridiculous punishment, without a doubt. But it shouldn’t be surprising; at the very least they should’ve known the risks.

    I’d rather save my pity for those who do not have any choice. Including Lee’s kid.

  33. Feebee says:

    Wow. My initial reaction was the US have a excuse to go in and bust them out! But in reality it’s a sad, tricky situation and I was blown back by X’s post – valid points.

    The journalists put themselves in a very dicey situation and the punishment way exceeds the crime.

    North Korea makes Iran look like a hot vacation spot in comparison.

  34. Lori says:

    It always amazes me what people on ENTERTAINMENT gossip blogs will get up on a soap box for!

    I don’t know how these woman got where they are. But bigger people were behind them and pushing for them to do what they did. It was not going to be a “vanity piece” That is just crazy! How can a story about North Korea be for “Vanity” dubdub? How are we to know the truth if someone does not risk their life to report it. You may not be willing to do impossible dangerous things to report injustice in the world, but the people who are willing deserve the support and respect of their country. Even if the country can’t help that person, you don’t then say they are getting what they deserve!

    And whoever was complaining about Lisa Ling, this story is about Laura Ling, so seriously take your comments somewhere else because you are an idiot.

    These woman may not be heros, but they don’t deserve to be put in a work camp for 12 yrs. And they don’t deserve spoiled American’s judging them and saying that they are getting what they deserve.

  35. Annie says:

    But it shouldn’t be surprising; at the very least they should’ve known the risks.

    I’ll agree with that. 🙂

    But I mean, that’s not ok. (which I know is not what you’re saying)

    It’s like people going “Ok, but come on, are you surprised Hitler invaded Poland after he said he wasn’t going to?” Of course we weren’t surprised but that doesn’t mean we’re cool with it.

    All I know is I’m sending good thoughts and hopes their way and hopefully, something positive will occur.

  36. wow says:

    yeah, would this be called “a little vanity piece” if it where men who were captured and if one of the men had a 4 year old, would he be castigated and told that he should of thought of that before…. ugggg.

    They are veteran journalists and knew exactly what they were doing, but why shouldn’t they try to get out of 12 YEARS hard labor, I mean come on, who wouldn’t try to get out of that?

    I respect their attempt though, you can’t tell me this was some little vanity project for friggin Oprah. N.Korea is some serious sh*t. That took guts to try to reveal what’s going on there and yeah, it’s vitally important that the world know what that monster is up to…

  37. Cheyenne says:

    “In her interview w/the view, she had footage of this sick little girl, left in another room, in the dark, not to be fed, and left to die. She FILMED IT. SHE PROVIDED COMMENTARY

    She stated, that as a journalist, you sit back & observe.”

    Oh sweet Christ. Since when do you have to sacrifice your humanity to be a journalist?

    She reminds me of a photojournalist in Africa a decade or so ago. He took a mind-blowing picture of a starving little girl around three or four years old, too weak to walk, crawling in the dust. Not six feet behind her crouched a large vulture, patiently waiting for her to die.

    The photojournalist took his prize-winning picture and left. God knows what happened to the little girl.

    If it had been me behind that camera, I would have shooed the vulture away, scooped that child up, and sped off to the nearest feeding center.

    That photograph has haunted me for years.

  38. lex says:

    @ Lori. Thank you for your post. I was too furious to find the words to respond to that garbage, but you’ve done it very well!

  39. Annie says:

    The photojournalist took his prize-winning picture and left. God knows what happened to the little girl.

    You forgot to mention that the picture haunted him so badly, that he ended up killing himself over it.

    Edit: Actually, I should amend so as to not create a false notion: He committed suicide 2 months after receiving his Pulitzer prize for that photo. Whether it was over that photo or not specifically has never been confirmed. And since he’s no longer alive….we can’t really ask him. Either way, I think it’s incorrect to say he was unaffected and unfeeling about the whole thing.

  40. Linda says:


    Very good point….it’s not like it was Merkat Manor where the observers do not want to get involved and let mother nature take it’s course. This was a living human being…

    Hey folks, like it or not, these two women broke another countries law. Yes, it may be harsh and all that, but it is not our place to tell North Korea how to punish people who broke the law. I don’t agree with it – but I certainly do not agree with two individuals thinking they had the right to illegally enter North Korea either. Actions have consequences and everyone who can read a newspaper or watches TV know that you stay the hell out of North Korea.

    Please look at their landscape and their current boarder security – these girls did not accidently cross the boarder – it was an intentional act that unfortunately has some pretty severe consequences. As bad as I feel for them, their families and the situation – they must accept the responsibility for their personal actions – they brought this on themselves!

    We Americans have no right to bitch as we complain about illegals entering our country all the time! Hell we have no right as we holding individuals right now and haven’t given them any justice and on top of that we have performed torture on them. Again, we CANNOT scream and be the moral compass of the world when we have done just as bad if not worse to citizens of other nations!

  41. Linda says:

    Hey Lori – do those individuals sitting in guantanamo bay deserve to be held there WITHOUT justice – they haven’t had access to a fair trial and they’ve been tortured by their captures. Their captures would be us – the United States.

    Here we cry OUTRAGE over these two girls who violated North Korea’s law, yet we continue ourselves to be lawless. Hard to tell North Korea to do the right thing when we ourselves don’t live up to the standard.

  42. Cheyenne says:

    Annie: I hadn’t heard the photojournalist committed suicide. But I think leaving that little girl there to what was almost certain death, when he could have picked her up and taken her to a feeding center, was a callous and unfeeling thing to do. Maybe that thought occurred to him later, after the photograph was published all over the world and and millions of people asked what happened to that child after he got his shot, and how could he just leave her there to die?

  43. Lori says:

    Hey Linda – I wasn’t talking about Guantanamo Bay. Why does one thing always have to become something entirely different? Today my concern is with Laura and Euna okay! Is that okay with you? Promise to think about Guantanamo tomorrow.

  44. lena says:

    I know i’m going to catch some heat with my opinion, but i think if these were two pretty white journalists the korean govt wouldn’t even try to pull a stunt like this, but because they look like them i think they are inclined to treat them worse and i also think more american people would be in an uproar demanding for their safe return, not saying oh well they should’ve followed the law…lets remember that plenty of people in this country and around the world broke the “law” for us to have the simple freedoms that we do today, just because it’s law doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be broken… was it stupid what they did…yes…should they be sentenced to 12 yrs of hard labor…NO

  45. e-non says:

    arrest and convicted in secret trials; witnesses have no access to the charges against them; many imprisoned for years with no opportunity to challenge their detention — a detention in all too many cases built of false charges.

    nope. not north korea. that’s what the good old u.s. of a. has done.

    gitmo is absolutely relevant here. the moral authority squandered by that texas loser leads to exactly this situation where that u.s. exceptionalism everyone likes to tout is all gone.

    i suspect the media’s been advised to keep the tone low. and considering how ill-informed and hysterical they tend to be at these types of incidents, it’s just as well.

  46. Annie says:

    I don’t disagree at all, but according to several articles that I read, they were told not to because they would actually make it worse.

    Can I say that I would’ve done the same as him? Probably not. I probably would’ve tried to pull an AJ and adopt the girl. But we don’t know if that would have helped. In fact, it may have exacerbated the problem. It’s like if you see a baby bird and you help it into the nest, you think you’re doing a good thing, but you actually just signed its death warrant.

  47. jennifer says:

    @ Cheyenne – this is the account of that incident according to Carter’s partner:

    Again according to Silva, Carter was quite shocked as it was the first time that he had seen a famine situation and so he took many shots of the children suffering from famine. Silva also started to take photos of children on the ground as if crying, which were not published. The parents of the children were busy taking food from the plane so they had left their children only briefly while they collected the food. This was the situation for the girl in the photo taken by Carter.

    So apparently her parent(s) were nearby. Of course no one will ever know the truth but that seems like a very possible scenario. Let’s hope so, anyway.

  48. Aspen says:

    These two journalists and the terrorists being held at Guantanamo cannot be compared. Attempting to is just ludicrous. I understand that you really see it as the same thing, and that we’ll have to agree to disagree, but America’s holding different sets of rules for its civilian courts and its military prisoners is NOT the same thing.

    In addition, these two women are not being treated any differently than anyone else. It is the arrogance born of a pampered, liberty-rich existence that Americans are shocked when something like this happens in the world. Not every nation is like America. Not every government has benevolent feelings toward its populace. North Korea has a right to defend its borders, and they do it…vigorously. There is NO WAY that these journalists went over there without understanding the risk.

    It is a tragic thing, and I hope to God that Secretary Clinton can negotiate their release…but they DID commit a crime (no quotation marks needed).

    In North Korea, it is a crime to cross the border without authorization. It’s a crime here, too…just a little side note. One of the first things we learn as military families going overseas is that laws in foreign nations MUST be obeyed whether our American sensibilities make us think the laws are stupid and unnecessary or not.

    Here in Okinawa, violations of certain traffic laws are punished with sentences of hard labor. In America, we can’t comprehend that idea. If an American violates those traffic laws, however, and is sentenced justly in the Japanese court system…should the US come get them out because it was only a “crime?”

    I contend that, no, they shouldn’t. Americans, rather, should respect where they are and acknowledge that not every place in the world is like home.

    It would be a tragedy for thousands of men like my decent husband and women like my upstairs neighbor to end up in a deadly war with North Korea over American outrage at the lawful imprisonment of two American journalists who tried to sneak over the border in defiance of North Korean law.

  49. Ana says:

    That picture will haunt me for the rest of my life. I read that he chased the vulture away but didn’t do anything else to help the girl reach the feeding center a kilometer away and nobody knows what happened. How difficult would it be to pick her up and carry her there???

  50. morgs says:

    Why isn’t the US Gov’t doing anything?

    Because we don’t negotiate with terrorists. We are entering into a full on nuclear standoff with this country. If you’ve ever seen any documentaries on North Korea you will find that you must try very VERY hard to sneak into that country. Talk about a border fence. You don’t go anywhere near the border. Not for a “quick peek” or a family photo. Stay the hell away. If the ladies ever claimed to not know the possible consequences of their actions, then, as harsh as it sounds, they were asking for it.

  51. CeeJay says:

    Morgs, to answer your question about why the U.S. government isn’t doing anything…they are. They are trying to negotiate through the Swedish embassy in North Korea.

    Al Gore had been appointed to try and handle the negotiations, but that was given the axe when it was determined that the two journalists were actually working for Al Gore’s company when they went on the trip. Hence the reason the N. Korean’s are convinced these two were spying. They cannot separate the fact that Gore used to be our V.P. but is now a private citizen who owns an advocacy consulting firm. They are convinced that an ex U.S. Vice President sent two spies to cross their borders and spy. It is not clear exactly what their assignment was in China and Gore’s camp is keeping quiet about that. There’s still more to learn about this incident and I’m sure we’ll learn it in the days to come. There is a reason the families of these two kept this quiet for two months before releasing information to the world.

  52. juegos says:

    I guess is to risky to be a journalist, hopely they get release soon

  53. Trashaddict says:

    We have to defend the access of journalists to all places, not only Korea but Guantanamo: ALL countries, ALL regimes. That’s the only defense against oppressive regimes, and formerly democratic regimes that are on a dangerous slide into stealing away civil liberties. What these two women did is, in a way, a form of civil disobedience. I just hope they don’t spend 12 years in labor camp for it.
    As far as removing starving children from famine situations, who out of the 100s of children do you pick first? These pictures are truly awful but they get the attention of the world more than journalistic prose. One only hopes that the photographers and editors know the difference between reporting and how sensationalism feeds the “bottom line”.

  54. BlueSkies says:

    People, let’s not forget Lisa Ling snuck into No. Korea pretending to be an opthamologist’s assisant and exposed the lunacy there about the great leader.
    It was on Oprah and Explorer. So, someone knows there. The Koreans must know this is Lisa’s sister and she is going to pay for Lisa’s outing of that government. Don’t you remember?

  55. Lori says:

    This is what Yahoo news is reporting about the labor camps.

    “their future likely includes the possibility of hard labor, starvation, and torture in a penal system many consider among the world’s most repressive.”

    “extremely hard labor under extremely brutal conditions.” Death rates are high due in part to inadequate food.

    Human-rights groups estimate that 20%-25% of prisoners die every year due to the harsh conditions. The work consists of mining, logging, farming, and “industrial enterprises.”

    “prolonged periods of exposure to the elements, humiliations such as public nakedness, and confinement for up to several weeks in small ‘punishment cells’ in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down.”

  56. geronimo says:

    Can’t believe some people are seriously pushing the ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’ argument here. This is a dangerous and frightening situation for these women and I hope the PTB are working busily behind the scenes to try and resolve this.
    (Lori – thanks for link, inhumane in anyone’s terms.)

  57. jb1879 says:

    There is no excuse for doing what they did and now they must pay. Regardless of their reason they did cross over into another country’s territory without permission. The only place in the world that this is okay to do (now) is here in the US.

  58. Aspen says:

    I don’t think they were “asking for it,” at all. I just think that they knew the risk when they went in. I think it’s even admirable (though I think it was rather foolhardy…these are journalists not spies or recon specialists with training).

    I’m just kind of taken back by how many people seem shocked that this is happening. What did you think a regime like North Korea would do? These people aren’t reasonable. We can’t “talk” to them, and my gut feeling is that these women are kinda screwed.

    What I don’t want…is someone from a comfortable home in Middle America to tell my husband to go risk his life to pull them out or to tell our government to threaten military action in favor of getting them out.

    I have prayed about it (which is all I know to do) and will be glued to the story with all my wishes for a successful discussion with Clinton to get them out of there.

    All the same…my point was that they knew the risk and broke the law anyway.

  59. sabine says:

    remind me to never go to North Korea

  60. Blondie says:

    Sabine….you can’t – thats the whole point

  61. filthycute says:

    Well, at least they’ll be busy while locked up. B1tches.

  62. Annie says:

    There is no excuse for doing what they did and now they must pay.

    Oh my goodness…..I can’t seriously be reading these things.

    Listen, I don’t disagree at all that they broke some rules in doing this, but geez, can’t they just be deported like everywhere else???? 12 years of hard labor is not “paying” it’s downright TORTURE.

    No. Before anyone asks if I’m surprised, I’m not. But that doesn’t make it ok, that just means this is something that we have to work towards correcting. I’m not surprised by racism but I’m also not ok with it either and I don’t just go “Oh well, I’m not surprised” and then walk away.

  63. Lenora says:

    I’m seeing lots of comments that are essentially calling these women stupid for going over there and getting caught. When Daniel Pearl got caught he was lauded as a heroic journalist who made the ultimate sacrifice for his profession. Efforts were also made to extracate him. He also knew the risks and left his pregnant wife in NY to go, was that a vanity piece? Is he a hero because he was a man? Are these women to be labeled as nitwit broads who didn’t understand the ramifications of what they were doing simply because of their gender? I even saw some poster call them the “B” word.

  64. teehee says:

    Theres an overall trend for people to call others stupid at any chance, but especially if a istake is made or something goes wrong unexpetedly (ie, injury)
    I think its a way people excuse themselves from having to feel care or worse yet, to do somethign to help someone else who is somehow in need. If they can call the person below deserving need or empathy, they dont have to feel it or do anything.
    Hence, for being in this situation, ‘theyre stupid’… dont deserve help.
    I mean, even the logic that ‘stupidity’ makes another human worthy or suffering or ‘punishment’ for whatever reason, through whatever means, is itself invalid!

  65. elle em says:

    As a journalist it is cruicial to know the policies of a foreign country. You DO NOT mess with North Korea! I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy with fame-seeking journalists who defy the laws of a country and then expext their own government to kiss ass and to bail them out of a situation that could/should have been prevented.

  66. Lem says:

    I think what people are saying is… they should have known better. if you don’t want to call it stupid fine. But it is definitely not smart.
    They assumingly have done some research and background on the country they ‘accidentally’ entered. As any journalist worth her salt would know ahead of time, into what she is getting herself.
    Does it suck for all involed? Yes. Was is smart or heroic. Not bloody likely.

  67. Lem says:

    ask yourself this..
    You have a young child/ spouse/ family at home and your work assignment for the day was to cross Main st.
    Now we are warning you that to cross Main St. is illegal. Not like 65 in a 55 illegal or smoke a little dope in college illegal. Silence..I kill You.. illegal. No bones about it. You see on the other side of Main St. is a psycho with machine guns and land mines, heck maybe even a nuke or 2. Said psycho starves his own on his side of main street. Across the street you will see torture and violence; humanities untold. There is only one law and that is psycho’s. Now this nut job has warned us that you are not welcome. Not to be confused you are banned. He says you can’t cross Main St. or you might be captured, killed, held hostage, raped (really a free for all you dig?) This is no Mexican border jump where they’ll just hit the re-set button for a do over. You know and you’ve been warned your American status and sensibilities will do you no good on the other side of Main St. Quite in fact, most likely the opposite. By the way you can’t use the cross walk. It being illegal and highly dangerous and all; so you’ll have to sneak around and if you do get caught on that side of Main St. we can’t really promise your safety or even your life because we have no hold or communications or even a MAcGyver in there. So kiss your folks good-bye and give it a go. Best of Luck.
    Forget that KIM JONG-IL is the nut on the other side of Main St. Would you go if Lil Kim was the nut guarding the other side of the street?

  68. Lem says:

    (hey mod’s)
    I’m not saying nobody should be going in. But this is much more likely a mission for some 007, Bear Grylls, XXX type than a couple of chics w/o any training who work for Al Gore special correspondence team. C’MON!

    Assuming of course that the girls are not in fact actually spies. If they are and have been trained then disregard and … give em hell girls!

  69. Annie says:

    Bear Gryllis is a fraud…Don’t get me wrong, I adore him, but he’s totally fake.

    Anyway, back to on topic.

    Are we supposed to allow fear-mongerers and tyrants like North Korea to prevent us from seeking the truth? If every journalist or what have you, decided that the “story wasn’t worth the risk” all you self-righteous people would be in the dark with your Oprah, eating some bonbons.

  70. morgs says:


    I don’t see how you can draw parallels between Daniel Pearl and this situation? He didn’t sneak into Pakistan. And his wife and unborn child were with him in Pakistan. Marianne wasn’t in New York waiting for him.

    All the journalists were trying to expose bad things in society and I’m grateful for that. But seriously, they were sneaking into NORTH KOREA! 12 years hard labor is ridiculous no question, but again, NORTH KOREA. Seriously not the smartest move trying to get into that country.

  71. Lenora says:


    Actually the situations are very similar. He left a family, ok fine if they were in Pakistan, that’s not the point, the point is that he knew that he was facing a dangerous situation and chose to continue. I see other people berating this woman for leaving her four year old. Lee left a family and they are probably very distraught and deserve compassion and prayers. I’ts sad because I’m not seeing much compassion whereas I saw loads of people banding together and holding vigils when it happened to Pearl. I don’t know whether the “thats what they get” attitude stems from the fact that Ling and Lee are women or if it’s because they are minorities. By the way, he didn’t sneak in but he still was in a WAR ZONE with plenty of loonies running around killing people. There are plenty of countries that are hostile at the moment. Pakistan was and is one of them. I thank these people who risk their lives for the pursuit of truth and knowledge and I just wanted to point out that one sacrifice is just as great as the other, regardless of the journalist’s race or sex. To say that they weren’t “smart” is to belittle the fact that they probably knew what they were doing was risky but they chose to do it ANYWAYS which makes them more courageous than the people who talk about change and truth but care not to leave their couches.

  72. BlueSkies says:

    I think what people are saying is… they should have known better. if you don’t want to call it stupid fine. But it is definitely not smart.
    They assumingly have done some research and background on the country they ‘accidentally’ entered. As any journalist worth her salt would know ahead of time, into what she is getting herself.
    Lem, remember Lisa Ling the sister entered N Korea under the guise of an opthamolisist’s assisant and then exposed N Korea to the world on Oprah.

    So the sister knew and N Korea is having revenge on Lisa Ling and her expose.

  73. Annie says:

    It’s not about “knowing better” though…again, we cannot allow these dictators to continue on with their tyrannical ways. Are you also one of those who say that the Jewish should’ve “known better” than to stay in Europe since so many had already fled? No. That’s ridiculous. Every single life is important and frankly, it’s ridiculous that there are so many people vilifying these two women instead of crying out for justice.

    It’s sad that we used to stand for free press, free speech and the pursuit of TRUTH…..

  74. Lem says:

    I’m all for free speech. That’s an American right. They are not in America. Free Speech is not a right in N. Korea.
    You have the right to cry for justice. I have the right to say they should have known better. I’m sure this was a consequence they considered. This country cannot afford to provoke a war with an absolute loon because a writer, be it black, white, male, female, young or old, jewish, muslim, wasp or polka dotted hare krishna decided to violate another countries laws.
    I defer again to… uncovering evils of N. Korea, at this time is best left to the professionals.

  75. Trashaddict says:

    Hey Lem: it wasn’t professionals in the French resistance, it wasn’t professionals at Tiananmen square, it wasn’t professionals at the Boston Tea Party.
    Rosa Parks “broke the law”. She wasn’t a professional.
    A lot of countries didn’t want to “provoke” a war with Hitler in the late 30s. Remember what they got????

  76. morgs says:

    @ Lenora,
    Thanks for your response. I really enjoyed it. I wonder if his situation was viewed differently (not because of sex or race), but because it was right after 9/11. Would we have demonized the actions of his executors as much if we, as a country, weren’t as raw as we were at that point in time? Pakistan was a simmering time bomb when Daniel Pearl was there, but the US was still in its blissful bubble and not worried, North Korea has been off limits (and I mean OFF LIMITS) for years. I remember seeing a documentary on it a few years ago and the gentleman who had the camera kept repeating what the consequences of his actions would be if he was caught. Seeing the miles and miles of fence and barbed wire around the border. And when the reporter was still in China, just filming the border, he was worried about N. Korean snipers and spys who could do something to him for just filming. And the footage that was filmed in N. Korea absolutely broke my heart. The babies and kids. Very upsetting.

    For some reason though, I can’t reconcile the two (Daniel Pearl/Ling/Lee) as being the same sort of situations. There are parallels, I just feel that these two women stepped willingly into a much hotter war zone than Daniel Pearl did. But that’s just me.

    I’m not questioning the fact that Euna Lee left her child. If she felt that this was important and that she wanted her child to live in a world where nutjubs like Kim Jong Il no longer ruled…then awesome and amazing. She knew what could happen if she didn’t return home. I’m positive she wanted to return home, just like Daniel Pearl. I personally, wouldn’t choose to put my family in that position, but that that was their choice. We are all guided by different things. Proving and documenting the world’s evil isn’t my thing, but I thank God there are people who are willing to take that risk to show me what needs to be seen. I’m cowardly in that respect, there is no way in hell I would do this. So, thanks for their search for the truth. But all journalists who enter into life and death situations should be fully aware of the consequences of their actions. I’m sorry they got caught. They now have to own up to their actions. As ridiculously harsh as they may be.

    Again, thanks for your great response.

  77. morgs says:


    Were you pro taking down Saddam Hussein? I only ask because you said “we cannot allow these dictators to continue on with their tyrannical ways.”. Not being sarcastic in any way. I am truly curious to know your opinion.

  78. barneslr says:

    “Hey folks, like it or not, these two women broke another countries law. Yes, it may be harsh and all that, but it is not our place to tell North Korea how to punish people who broke the law.”

    Really? You think it’s okay just because it is another country’s laws? I guess you think that cutting off hands and killing rape victims is okay, too…since those are the laws of certain countries.

    Think for yourself and don’t be an idiot. If something is wrong, it is wrong EVERYWHERE. What was done to these women is wrong and the world should be up in arms over this.

  79. Annie says:

    We’re talking about journalists doing an expose, not the waging of a trillion dollar war (more than that…if you want to get technical) but yes, in short I did support the removal of Saddam, but I don’t think the way it was done was appropriate and before you flip the handle on me, the issue at hand is two women being sent to labor camps for being 2 inches on the wrong side not the Iraq war.

    And in that vein, my hope is that we won’t have to go to war with N. Korea and that we can reach some kind of agreement.

    I mean, it’s similar to countries who harbor US fugitives and refuse to hand them over unless we promise not to have the death penalty as an option.

  80. sarcra says:

    “can’t they just be deported like everywhere else????”

    Seriously. The punishment does NOT fit the crime.

  81. sarcra says:

    “If something is wrong, it is wrong EVERYWHERE.”

    Thank you!! I can’t believe to see the lack of compassion for these two women. 12 years of hard labor for crossing the border is outrageous. It is not right just because it’s another country’s rule. It is absolutely insane.

  82. morgs says:

    Annie calm down girl. I wasn’t trying to flip the handle on you. I was asking a genuine question. Thanks for responding.

  83. Annie says:

    My apologies. 🙂

  84. TaylorB says:

    Seems to be a real Jean Valjean moment here doesn’t it? Sure they ‘broke the law’ but does the punishment fit the crime? Crossing a border illegally is supposedly worth 12 years of hard labor and possible death from starvation? Really? Is that ok with you? Well it isn’t ‘ok’ with me. If you are fine with it, then you will be the one who lives with that knowledge that if one of our fellow Americans dies or languishes for 12 years in these prisons and it seemed ‘fine to you’ ‘they broke the law of that country and deserve it’, I suspect that when our fine men and women of the armed forces are captured, tortured, and possibly killed it is ‘fine with you’ as well since those are the ‘laws of that country’? Right?

    We have the privilege to live in a country where people are not treated like chattel. If one of those women were friends or family of you folks would you so easily dismiss them? If your answer is yes, start decorating your handbasket to hell because you are gonna need it soon.

  85. Billi says:

    They should not have gone…PERIOD. I don’t want to use the word stupid to describe what they did. In my opinion, it was arrogance. I do not believe their entry to the country was accidental. They expected to get quite a story, come back and make mega dollars telling their tale on all of the news circuits. I expect this will be quite a humbling experience for them. And, by the way, when Lisa Ling is on Oprah, i just keep channel surfing. In my opinion, she is the definition of arrogance. I’m sure she is grieving over her sister. I believe there is a valuable lesson here for all of those who believe they are invincible, above laws that govern a country, and quite honestly, who believe they are better than others. Being kind and humble win over arrogance and wishes for fame any day.

  86. TaylorB says:


    You do understand that NK is a violent dictatorship under the rule of a lunatic and that while they may have crossed the border illegally, and unwisely, two American citizens who did not harm anyone else in their border crossing crime will now do 12 years of hard labor in barbaric prisons where people die of physical abuse, starvation etc. on a regular basis, right? And that is fine in your opinion?

    Just curious.

  87. Chakka says:

    It’s not safe outside of the US . Different laws and regulations and of course most times no lady justice. These women made a very bad choice and now they have to learn such hard lessons about life. It’s sad for them, but the husbands will move on and find women that will stay in the US and be good wives.

  88. thegoodlife says:


    “She stated, that as a journalist, you sit back & observe. Well lets observe your sister shall we? Let us, sit back & watch your all-knowing sister, who forged ahead despite all warnings, and who now is trying so hard to get everyone involved…let us watch her serve her rightfully deserved sentence.

    Sorry, double standards are so obnoxious in my book. “

  89. FF says:

    It’s North Korea, all they had to have been doing is standing on the wrong side of the line.

    That said, I think all countries are like that in some regard it’s just the line that varies from place to place.

    The thing is, unsettling North Korea could have repercussions for the South (which is democratised) – so that would suck to put it mildly. Also they’re physically close to China, Russia and Japan – which I’m sure isn’t helpful. To the person who said North Korea is off limits and has been for years – seriously, it is – why’d you think the country is divided in two?

    I’m kind of not surprised they’ve been imprisoned but I AM surprised they weren’t warned more about possible consequences. Someone dropped the ball somewhere in advising them about their position for filming. Unless, of course, they did it knowingly – which I really hope they didn’t.

    Also, if you’re wondering why North Korea is so paranoid you only have to look at the country’s history: it’s like centuries of invasions by one or other of their neighbouring countries.

    I’d like to hope one day the whole country would merge and democratize but I’m thinking not in my lifetime.

  90. FF says:

    Also having read the comments I get – I’d wondered but hadn’t known for sure – that the entire border is a heavily militarilised zone.

    So I’d rather doubt they didn’t know what they were doing or the risk. I’m rather guessing now that they figured if they were captured the media attention itself would focus attention on North Korea.

    But to what forseeable end in the immediate future, is my thought?

    Now I know that there’s a line of thought that argues for journalists ‘courageously’ uncovering the truth but to my mind truth is subjective and you have to have an audience open to that truth and the situation has to be open to change in order to effect change. Certain resources have to be available and certain factors have to be represented.

    If there had been diplomatic relations between the US and North Korea on a regular basis then maybe. But the country is like a closed off cell, as I understand it. Is there any point emolating yourself in pursuit of truth if it doesn’t bring about change? Or if it in fact increases tensions for everyone involved?

    Also for some of the examples of change, most have to start with an internal movement of the people and be complimented with a government willing to meet them if not halfway have some degree of receptivity. I’m not seeing that here at this time, though I’d be happy to be wrong. And I think timing is of critical import.

    There may be a time that such a manoeuvre would have had full benefits for the people of North Korea, as it is it may just be two journalists’ sufferage that creates a greater understanding of the problem but not for the moment definitive change.

    In short, I don’t think it was something to be done, particularly at this time with the potential of not just another military conflict but one that could possibly escalate to a nuclear level.

    Nobody wants to go there (doesn’t anyone remember the brief threat of it in the 80s?) so there are more than a simple stop the bad guy doing bad things response. A lot has to be considered in general and it’s probably going to have to be by the long path of re-establishing diplomatic relations and establishing a degree of contact and then maybe if possible trust.

    More likely North Korea with use it for some sort of leverage.

    So it more of a tactical situation which is why people are wondering if the journalists considered any of this at all before going in because it’s a pretty dreadful mess to be sure.

    I’m not saying it can’t work out, just that it doesn’t look very sunny right now. There’s may be an obvious answer – stop the bad guy doing bad things – but many questions pop up, such as HOW exactly does one go about doing so. Particularly as time is significant factor for these women?

    Which is why it is easy to throw your hands up and say they made a pretty catastrophic choice be it on their own head.

    I don’t believe that, I believe we should offer some aid if we can give it but the point is that my not be enough to stop these women experiencing significant hardship prior. So again, while the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, is the crime worth doing in the first place if it could potential effect nothing more than more suffering to no positive end?

  91. morgs says:

    but the husbands will move on and find women that will stay in the US and be good wives.
    SERIOUSLY? Is your life motto: pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen?

    How antiquated was that comment? Oh lord. “they will find women who will stay and be good wives?”. I’m pretty sure their husbands married them because they had balls and are the people they are. I can’t get over this comment. You’re right, women should learn their place is at home being a good wife. eyeroll.