Of all the details released this week by the North Korean government about the June 4th – 8th trial of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, only one reflected a voluntary action by one of the defendants. But what a puzzling, haunting action it was.
At the outset of the Central Court proceedings in Pyongyang, Euna Lee is said to have waived her right to an attorney. Presumably, this means that she acted on her own behalf throughout the drawn out legal proceedings. She and the separately lawyered Ling are alleged to have admitted to fabricating some aspects of their seized video reportage (in civilized countries, we call these re-enactments).
Why would Lee decide to bypass legal representation? Since she speaks Korean, it was really the court appointed translator that she could do without rather than the attorney.
Perhaps Lee overheard something that made it clear to her that the results of the trial were a foregone conclusion. Perhaps she knew that this court’s version of a lawyer does little more than explain charges to a defendant. Perhaps she felt the charges could not be disproved. Or maybe Lee’ s decision was a sign of psychological fatigue.
This fatigue could have come not just from months of isolation in a Pyongyang guest house, but also – tragically – from the possibly harsh interrogation techniques she and Ling were subjected to after their arrest along the Chinese-North Korean border. And certainly, those additional nights of isolation during the trial, which prevented Lee and Ling from discussing the day’s proceedings, must have felt like the longest, cruelest of all.