It took just under three months, but we finally have the first reliable confirmation that Laura Ling, Euna Lee, Mitchell Koss and guide Kim Seong-chol did indeed cross into North Korean territory on that fateful March morning.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Venice) during a June 12th phone conversation that the U.S. government has established that the quartet did step across the border. However, it is unclear whether – after being chased and captured by North Korean border guards – those border guards entered Chinese territory to effect the capture of the two journalists. The entire episode occurred within “a few dozen meters” of the North Korea – China border.
Many people do not believe Ling and Lee would have knowingly crossed the dividing line of a frozen Tumen River. Irrespective of a post-trial claim by the North Koreans that seized camera footage revealed corroborating voiceover narration and actions.
Rather, they point to a host of other factors to support the theory that Ling and Lee were led into a trap by the paid off guide: the savvy experience of 56-year-old producer Koss; the seasoned instincts of Ling; and an apparent pre-excursion warning not to cross the border from the person who recommended the guide (Pastor Chun Ki-won of South Korea’s Durihana Mission) –
A recent article by @SkeeterVT @dailykos referenced a @reporterswb statement that Seong-chol is still in the custody of Chinese officials (unlike fellow escapee Koss, who was released). I have been unable at press time to confirm this. However, let’s for a moment assume that this is true – that Kim Jong-il’s likely namesake Judas is still presently in Chinese captivity.
If Seong-chol has confessed his duplicitous actions, then the Chinese and-or Americans are sitting on diplomatic dynamite. If not, there are several possible ways to confirm this theory: the guide’s cell phone records and-or some sort of peripheral evidence of the large cash transaction presumably agreed upon by North Korea in return for delivering the precious Ling–Lee cargo.
Even though the North Korean government is desperate enough to still not budge in the face of worldwide condemnation for leading two innocent Americans into a trap, this element if proven would vault the story to a whole new level of coverage. Not to mention rally many more to the cause.
In other words, if the State Department isn’t already working with China to focus on this incident’s lesser Kim, they should. ASAP.
P.S. The only missing link here is a statement by Koss confirming that the three Americans were led astray by their Korean-Chinese guide. Again, perhaps the 56-year-old Glendale, CA resident has been advised to keep quiet on this front as well, for back channel reasons.