If you aren’t much of a news-buff, it’s possibly unlikely that you are aware of the plight two United States journalists face today in North Korea as they stand trial for crimes unknown to most of us. But for those of us in the news business, those of us familiar with North Korea’s strong control over news content and low tolerance for the journalism practices of the western world, it’s a melancholy day as we await news regarding the verdict.
As of 2 a.m. (eastern) this morning – 3 p.m. in North Korea – journalists Laura Ling* and Euna Lee were to stand trial seemingly for charges of “hostility” against the country and espionage. Unfortunately, while we can assume those are the charges against these women, that’s rather unsure because North Korea retains strict control over all news in their country – both what comes in and goes out. And with a state-controlled media system, little information has been released regarding the accusations made against Ling and Lee, leaving their fate a mystery. However, if charged with the assumed convictions, the ladies face up to 10 years in a labor camp as punishment.
So what did they do?
In March, the women – along with two others – were filming a story on the border of China and North Korea about sex trafficking for Current TV, a California-based station. And in doing so, as they straddled that divide between countries, they were promptly arrested by North Korean forces. The two others at the site managed to escape, while Ling and Lee fell victim to a government that has, or so it seems, decided to use their arrest as a bargaining chip with the United States as nuclear practices of that country are being questioned.
With Kim Jong-il’s recent nuclear testing and the obvious uproar it has caused not only in the United Nations, but in America, all indications are that the result of this trial hinges on how those entities – primarily our country’s government – deal with the potential, discussed repercussions North Korea currently faces. These women have become, quite unfortunately, pawns in a worldwide game of politics.
And while I am not typically politically minded or even relatively interested in the topic, when it comes to two journalists who were simply doing their job being used in this manner, it’s difficult to not become unraveled and enraged. Neither Ling nor Lee were acting with “hostility” toward North Korea. And espionage? You’ve got to be kidding! They were reporting on a topic entirely unrelated to nuclear capabilities, and yet they’ve been pushed into the middle of a political war. It’s just such a shame.
So here I sit, along with many other journalists around the country and world, awaiting this verdict and crossing my fingers that justice truly prevails rather than mounting tensions and political unrest. It’s truly unfortunate that these women have practically become negotiation hostages in North Korea, but we can only hope that that changes today.
Go to Yahoo! news’ “2 US journalists on trial in North Korea” for more information. Once news breaks and the verdict is announced, I’ll post that information.
* Her older sister is Lisa Ling, who you might be familiar with through Oprah – where she often appears regarding expose material, such as LDS camps and puppy mills – or through her brief stint on The View.
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