What if American diplomacy (or lack there of) determined whether or not 12 years in a labor camp was in your future?
Unfortunately for journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the United States and North Korea’s rocky relationship may be threatening their personal freedom.
On April 17, 2009 the Current reporters were arrested in North Korea for (gasp!) illegal border crossing—a crime punishable by over a decade of work in a communist labor camp.
It’s not surprising the nation plans to take such extreme actions. In the past few months, North Korea has acted like a stubborn, misfit child. Rockets, nuclear testing, firing ballistic missiles and swatting off the U.N. Security Council have been just a few of the country’s recent activities.
Now the North Korea is remaining in the headlines by refusing to release two American journalists.
Lee and Ling were captured in North Korea's far northeast corner while they were reporting on women and children defectors—most likely not a story that would bedazzle the country’s image.
Despite North Korea’s bad behavior, former President Bill Clinton (his former Vice President Al Gore happens to run Current TV) made a surprise visit to Pyongyang earlier today and was received with open arms (literally), as well as with indigenous flora by children who were absolutely peerless for photo ops. Looks like Clinton isn’t doing so bad thus far.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrives at an airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Aug. 4 2009 (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
A senior U.S. official reported all acts and discussions will be kept confidential due to the sensitive nature of the issue. Kim Jong II, whose health is about as stable as his behavior, may be on Clinton’s agenda later.
As politicians see it as a chance for public displays of negotiation, and Gore catches some substantial PR for his news website, TV journalist Lisa Ling (Laura’s sister) courageously commented last month to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “We would champion the opportunity to have these girls be the catalyst for diplomacy.”
Journalism is a risky business, as we have learned through shockingly terrifying internet videos and “based on true events” Hollywood films. Let’s hope Clinton hasn’t lost his mild affability with the North Koreans.
For more information on defending journalists worldwide, visit Committee to Protect Journalists.