A month after they were spared a 12-year prison sentence in a North
Korean labor camp, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee told the story
of their imprisonment in the op-ed page of The Los Angeles Times, and a video posted to the Web site of Current, their employer. The details of their capture--which include being dragged back across the North Korean border guards and being subjected to "rigorous" questioning--are frightening. But in their op-ed, Ling and Lee asked tried to direct attention to the story they wanted to report in the first place: the rampant human trafficking that is so rampant on the China-North Korea border. "Our experiences pale when compared with the hardship facing so many
people living in North Korea or as illegal immigrants in China," they wrote. For now, it seems unlikely that will happen. Some columnists say the womens's account raises more questions than it answers.
- Did They Cause Harm to Human Rights Groups? Hamilton Nolan asked at Gawker. Some activists in North Korea and China say the capture of the journalists compromised their human rights operations. "One South Korean pastor who had helped guide Ling and Lee on their reporting trip says that just days after their arrest, the police came knocking, and confronted him with video footage that Current reporters had taken of his operation." But Nolan says this is unfair to Ling and Lee, and argues that there are always risks in journalism. "Just as the reporters take risks to get the story, organizations speaking to the reporters voluntarily take risks by speaking to the media," he wrote. "The reward is getting the message out about North Korean refugees; the risk is having what happened happen."
- Were They Tortured? At The Washington Post, Jon Herskovitz says it's not clear. "They did not give a detailed account of the questioning. The two were not sent to one of North Korea's labor camps, where
defectors and human rights groups have said torture is common and
prisoners often die due to brutal conditions."At Valleywag, Andrew Belonsky says he's curious too, but reminds readers they'll have to wait for the book. "Those of you who are looking for details on their "rigorous" interrogation, sorry, the ladies aren't giving that up so easily. That's why God invented book deals."
- Were They Reckless? Megan Carpentier of Air America says Ling and Lee, "seem a little unable to resist conveying their suspicions that the guide they trusted had betrayed them." In their oped, the women say they may have been sold out by their guide, who led them across the North Korean border. "In retrospect, the guide behaved oddly," they wrote. "But it was ultimately our decision to follow him, and we continue to pay for that decision today with dark memories of our captivity."
- Are They Opportunists? Of course, says Hamilton Nolan. He says Laura Ling and her famous sister Lisa have a book contract in the works. "Like we said, being kidnapped is the career move of a lifetime. Sure, Laura Ling could have written her own book about her harrowing ordeal in a North Korean prison. But that would never make Oprah."