For the first time since they arrived back in the U.S. a month ago, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have written up their account of exactly what happened to them in North Korea. This part of the story we already knew: The two were in China reporting for a piece about North Korean women who were fleeing across the border, only to find that their lives in China were pretty miserable and that they were hungry, victims of violence, and often ended up stripping online.
But what we didn’t know is exactly how their arrest happened and whether they did in fact cross into Kim Jong Il land.
“Our guide, a Korean Chinese man who often worked for foreign journalists, had brought us to the Tumen River to document a well-used trafficking route…There were no signs marking the international border, no fences, no barbed wire. But we knew our guide was taking us closer to the North Korean side of the river. As he walked, he began making deep, low hooting sounds, which we assumed was his way of making contact with North Korean border guards he knew.
When we set out, we had no intention of leaving China, but when our guide beckoned for us to follow him beyond the middle of the river, we did, eventually arriving at the riverbank on the North Korean side…Feeling nervous about where we were, we quickly turned back toward China. Midway across the ice, we heard yelling. We looked back and saw two North Korean soldiers with rifles running toward us. Instinctively, we ran.
We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us. Producer Mitch Koss and our guide were both able to outrun the border guards. We were not. We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers. They violently dragged us back across the ice to North Korea and marched us to a nearby army base.
We didn’t spend more than a minute on North Korean soil before turning back, but it is a minute we deeply regret. To this day, we still don’t know if we were lured into a trap.
Luckily, after several months of being held prisoner and being sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, Bill Clinton swooped in and saved the day for the two reporters. The two are now back home, readjusting to normal life. Check out their full statement at Current.com.