Citizen Bill Clinton's mission of mercy to the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] had the ostensible purpose of bring two American journalists sentenced to 12 years each of hard labour, back safe and sound to the US. Their release snowballed into a relaxation of tensions first between Washington and Pyongyang, and then Pyongyang and Seoul. The thaw in relations is warming up to a degree that as Guam Diary had 'called for a conference in Geneva', lto resolve outstanding matters lingering from the war in Korea [1950-1953], not the least the signing of a peace treaty.
Lisa Ling and Euna Lee are finally terlling us their story almost two months after arrfiving back on American soil. It has come in the form of an op ed piece in the 'Los Angeles Times' [2 September 2009]. As good journalist, they went the extra mile for their story: North Korean defectors or refugees who fled to China for food and work. Mostly living in the shadows, among the Sino Korean population, the women were forced into sex slavery or marriage. The men too began slaves in sweat shops or restaurants or menial jobs, lest they be denounced and sent back to harsh punishment in North Korea.
Ling and Lee are no novices in reporting. Swept along with even interviewing border guardson the Chinese DPRK border, on the dawn of 17 March 2009, they crossed the border at the shallow Tumen river. They had asked their guide, a Sino Korean who had worked with other foreign or western journalist, to arrange a meeting with friendly border guards. He tried to set it up on his cell phone but was unable. Ling and Lee threw caution to the wind, by going with man in the hopes that his signals would end in their much sought interview with North Korean border guards who accept bribes from the refugees, thereby allowing them safe passage into China.
It had the wrong, desired outcome. Two guards emerged from the woods, in hot pursuit of the two women who ran for safety in China. The guide and their camera crew, all male, ran as did the two women. The men escaped, but Ling and Lee got nabbed for entering the DPRK illegally.
They pleaded guilty at their show trial, and later willingly apologises for violating North Korean law by trespassing. Owing to US president Obama's [BHO] hard line policy towards Pyongyang for not desisting in the launch of a satellite on a long range rocket, fueled by Washington's seizure of the UN security council on questionable grounds, which resulted in sanctions, Kim Jong il escalated his response by slamming the door on the six party talks in Beijing, sent packing IAEA observers, started up its nuclear programme, exploded a powerful non nuclear device [see Clery's article in 'Science'], and shredded the 1953 Armistice Accords. And the poisonous atmosphere gathered more and more lethal until the Ling and Lee in a call to their families in San Francisco that the Kim regime after US secretary of state proffered an apology, would welcome the visit of Citizen Bill Clinton, to lance the boil of discontent between Washington and Pyongyang. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Still the fallout of Ling and Lee's arrest has had dire consequences for ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] citizen rescue efforts, mainly by evangelising Christian pastors who came not only to bring aid and succor to the North Korean refugees, but also convert them to their brand of Christianity, and in the hope that they could spirit them to South Korea. North Korean authorities confiscated the two reporters notebooks, and possibly filmed interviews, thereby compromising rescue efforts. Articles have appeared in the South Korean press denouncing the irresponsibility of Ling and Lee for being zealously blind to the consequences of their actions at the DPRK border crossing.
Ling and Lee are back home safe, but nowhere in their joint op ed 'Los Angeles Times' is there a feeling of remorse for the North Korean refugees whose life they rendered less secure and even put at risk by being sent back to the DPRK.
It is doubtful that they've absorbed the full import of their rash decision to interview venal North Korean border guards.