The Dear Reader: DPRK Observations & Musings

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LiberateLaura@gmail.com

Betrayed at the Border?

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 KoreaChina 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 LingLee 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.

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Filed under: Euna Lee, Laura Ling, Mitchell Koss

4 Responses

  1. Spelunker says:

    Very nice! I’ve been waiting for a US government leak on this story. My question for Dep. Sec. Steinberg: “What took you so long?”

    I’m also glad to see somebody has been paying attention to my numerous posts about the so-called “paid-off guide”!

    You still have to consider the fact that confiscated Current TV video footage has the crew narrating their own trespassing: “We are now entering North Korean territory without
    permission”. Add to that the additional anecdote of somebody picking up a stone as a souvenir.
    I doubt the North Koreans could have made that up and am confident the alleged stone wasn’t meant to be a souvenir of China.

    If there was any truth to the possibility that the Americans were captured by North Korean sentries on China’s side of the border then wouldn’t eyewitness Mitch Koss and the State Department contradict Pyongyang’s version of events on March 17 after the post-trial report was released last week?

    Good luck trying to get Chinese officials to say anything about the guide, whether he is still in custody or not. You might want to go after Pastor Chun Ki-won, who could assist in tracking down the guide if anybody wishes to pursue that angle. In fact, I would put a bounty on information that leads to identifying where the guide is now and disseminate such a post in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. (Japanese reporters love bounties!)

    Once again, don’t expect any help from Chinese officials or anybody who works for the media in China. If Hu Jintao knew in advance which day
    the North Koreans are planning to fire the missile toward Maui he wouldn’t tell us for a billion bucks and a container of chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

  2. […] Laura Ling and Euna Lee, by virtue of their very captivity, are also bringing much needed attention to a great and underreported humanitarian crisis.  Ironically, no report they could have provided would likely have brought the North Korean regime such infamy.  Yet  more reports seem to suggest that they intentionally took a big risk in the course of their reporting, perhaps to bring attention to their fledgling organization. Here is the latest of those: 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, although it is unclear – after being chased and captured by North Korean border guards – whether 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.  [Liberate Laura Blog] […]

  3. […] Whether they were “lured” into North Korea is a moot point for me.  If they were indeed reporting on North Korean victims of trafficking in China, they should have been nowhere near the border. Yet, they crossed a conspicuously identifiable border, presumably on their own volition.  This move was reckless and unnecessary, risking their own lives and the lives of the aforementioned countless refugees and the underground networks they belong to. […]

  4. spelunker702 says:

    The following are Chinese sources citing the exact location where Current TV’s crew went on the morning of March 17. The name of the Chinese border village is “Ma Pai” (马牌村) and it’s located in “Yueqing” (月晴镇) township which is about 10 kilometers south of the city of Tumen. The first 4 sources are from China and #5 and #6 are from Hong Kong’s Phoenix network.
    All cite the same location and Phoenix even sent a crew there last month to interview local residents who are familiar with the incident.

    1.
    http://news.sina.com.cn/w/sd/2009-06-10/121117990001.shtml

    两人是在中国图们市和月晴镇之间的图们江采访时被抓。月晴镇是位于图们市以南仅十公里的一个小乡镇,以图们江为界,与朝鲜南阳市接壤。图们市“韩人会”有关负责人表示,“这里的江面宽度很窄,外人徒步就可以越过,有的地方只有几米宽。据我所知,两名记者是在图们江江边采访时被抓。”

    2.
    http://news.163.com/09/0324/15/5569ST7R000120GU.html

    韩联社稍后的报道似乎证实了这位消息人士的话:两名美国女记者是在中国图们市与月晴镇之间的豆满江边(中国图们江)被抓。生活在图们市的韩国侨民们证实:“从图们市前往附近月晴镇沿途的江面非常狭窄。这些人很有可能是在江面中央地带不小心越过了国境线不明确的地区。”月晴镇是位于图们市以南仅10公里的一个小乡镇,以图们江为界,与朝鲜南阳市接壤。“图们市韩人会”有关负责人表示:“这里的江面宽度很窄,外人徒步就可以越过,有的地方只有几米宽。据我所知,两名记者是在沿图们江边采访时被抓。”

    3.
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/herald/2009-05/18/content_11394082.htm
    另两位美国女记者——华裔劳拉·凌(中文名凌志美)和韩裔尤娜·李是3月17日在吉林省延吉边境地区采访遭朝鲜边防军逮捕扣押的。韩联社当时报道称,两名女记者在中朝边境地区,不理会朝鲜边防军的警告继续拍摄,被朝鲜边防军“越境拘捕”,而随行的另一名男记者和朝鲜族男导游则逃离。后有媒体称,由于当时值旱季,图们江地区的边境界限不是十分明显,从图们市前往附近月晴镇沿途的江面非常狭窄,两名女记者可能是“误入”朝鲜边境被逮捕。

    4.
    http://www.jiahewh.com/view.php?id=OTY5OTdDQU5EWTA1MjU=
    记者20日获悉,本月17日在采访途中被朝鲜军队扣留的2名美国女记者是在位于朝中边境的中国吉林省图们市与月晴之间的豆满江边被抓。

    生活在图们市的韩国侨民们20日称:“从图们市前往附近月晴镇沿途的豆满江非常狭窄。这些人很有可能是在两地中央地带不小心越过了国境线不明确的地区。”

    月晴镇是位于图们市以南仅10公里的一个小乡镇,以豆满江为界,与朝鲜南阳市接壤。

    5.
    http://news.ifeng.com/mil/2/200906/0624_340_1217961.shtml

    2009年3月17日,两名美国女记者,华裔的劳拉·凌和韩裔的尤娜·李在马牌村采访时,因为跨入搁浅的图们江拍摄,被朝鲜潜伏江边的边防军逮捕。这在月晴镇是个家喻户晓的新闻。从这之后,李在赫在月晴镇遇见外地人,都会提醒:“离坝上远点。”6月8日,朝鲜中央裁判所判处两名美国女记者12年劳动教化徒刑。李在赫说:“这是现在越境的代价。”

    6.
    http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/xlksj/200906/0616_1760_1205602.shtml

    解说:据称,两人原本计划当天结束在延吉和图们的采访后要到丹东,没想到却被意外扣押。有消息人士称:两人被捕的地点月晴镇,是位于中国图们市以南仅10公里的一个小乡镇,这里经常被用作秘密会见离散家属或逃北者隐藏的地方,它以图们江为界,与朝鲜南阳市接壤。由于图们等地的朝中边境地区河道较窄且边境不是十分明确,两人很可能在不知不觉中越境。

    Spelunker

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