This is the price a journalist pays for trying to report the truth about North Korea, away from the regime’s guided tours. The information about the whereabouts of Euna Lee and Laura Ling comes from South Korean “human intelligence” sources in the North, so don’t take this at face value:
After being questioned at the security command, Lee and Ling were reportedly taken to Pyongyang last Wednesday. Each was put in a separate vehicle so that there would be no communication between them. According to South Korean sources, the journalists are being questioned at closed-off quarters under the auspices of the command near Pyongyang. One source said, “Our intelligence tells us that since this involved border security, the command wants to physically detain the journalists. Another source said there is also a distinct possibility that once the current round of questioning is complete, the journalists will be handed over to the National Security Defense Agency, the North’s top intelligence unit.
The sources said U.S. officials were appreciative of South Korea’s quick effort and specific information. They also said Korea told the U.S. that the North is likely trying to get the journalists to admit to espionage at the border. According to the sources, given the North’s relentless style of questioning and investigation, Lee and Ling will have little choice but to reveal what they saw and heard.
When their capture first became known, the journalists were said to be on a trip to report on the plight of North Korean refugees, and their reports on the refugees or footage of North Korean territory could work against them.
The South Korean intelligence community believes the charges against the journalists will likely be espionage because they crossed the border. It’s a felony that could result in a minimum of 20 years in prison in North Korea.
One source said, “The North will film all of its questioning of the journalists and will prepare for negotiations with the United States.
The source said the North could get the Americans to say they had spied on tape but will release them anyway, which would make the move seem like a goodwill gesture on the North’s part. [Joongang Ilbo]
In Pyongyang, investigators were poring over the two American journalists’ notebooks, videotapes and cameras amid allegations they “illegally intruded” into North Korean territory and were spying on the regime’s military facilities, the JoongAng Ilbo said. [AP, Jean H. Lee]
Well, if you’re a glass-half-full sort, being detained and interrogated incommunicado in the world’s most totalitarian state generates nothing but good will if all ends happily, and for an affordable ransom! Rosemary, book us three more of those guided tours of Pyongyang! But there are always a few people who must just hate peace:
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called for the journalists’ immediate release, and urged China and North Korea to clarify where the women were detained. Their capture in China would violate international law, the group’s Asia-Pacific Desk chief said.
“It’s a kidnapping; it’s not an arrest,” Vincent Brossel told reporters in Seoul. “It’s a new case of kidnapping by the North Korean regime against civilians, in this case journalists.”
I’m not going to use the term “kidnapping” until I know which side of the border the women were on, but it’s nice to see reporters showing some agitation about North Korea imprisoning someone for once.