Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two L.A.-based journalists who work for the Al Gore-founded Current TV channel, were greeted as heroes earlier this month when they arrived in Burbank after Bill Clinton arranged for their release from North Korean captivity. The Communist regime had charged the reporters with entering North Korea without visas and other charges, and sentenced them to 12 years in a labor camp. They were out after five grueling months.
Now, however, the women's actions are being questioned by the very people whose plights they had hoped to document. Korean activists and refugees living in China claim that the notes and video footage seized by Chinese authorities from the Current TV team have been used to harass North and South Koreans engaged in the dangerous business of smuggling North Koreans out of their country through China. Both PRI's The World Program and the New York Times have recently run stories in which the pair's actions are questioned.
According to the NY Times,
Ling and Lee were visiting the homes of North Korean refugees living in
China near its border with North Korea, at the time of their arrests.
“The Rev. Lee Chan-woo, a South Korean pastor,” says the NYT story,
“said the police raided his home in China on March 19, four days after
the journalists visited and filmed a secret site where he looked after
children of North Korean refugee women.”
to the Rev. Lee, Ling and Lee jeopardized his safety right off the bat
by phoning his home directly to arrange meetings.
“Mr. Lee,” the Times reports, “said the American crew asked to visit one of five secret homes
where he looked after 20 children, ages 5 to 13. They were the children
of North Korean women who had been lured by human traffickers with
promises of food and then sold to Chinese men, he said.”
inside his home, Lee claims, the Current TV team promised it wouldn't video the children in his care — which
they did, he says, when his attention was engaged elsewhere.
PRI report quotes Tim Pieters, who runs the Catacombs missionary
program in Northeast China, as decrying Ling and Lee's naivity: “For
them to be carrying such potentially incriminating evidence with
them,” Pieters said, “is somewhat representative of cases that we've
seen in the past,
that journalists come into that area not fully prepared for the depths
that they may have to deal with.”
Current TV denies Rev. Lee's version of events and says that its two reporters will
explain their side of the story after they completely recover from