The Dear Reader: DPRK Observations & Musings


Koss and Effect

Quite simply, it’s not surprising that veteran producer and cameraman Mitch Koss has refrained from making any public statements about the events of March 17th in Mapai, China, where he managed to escape the clutches of the North Korean border guards who apprehended Laura Ling and Euna Lee. After all, the 56-year-old Glendale, CA resident presently relies on @Current for a large portion of his livelihood, and with the decimated CA economy severely limiting employment opportunities for all residents (let alone a senior citizen working in the media vertical), we can’t really blame Koss for erring on the side of the TV network’s gag order.

What is surprising, however, is that we have yet to see an anonymous blog or Deep Throat type of media relationship cultivated by a young upstart @Current intern or junior employee. The name such a maverick-voice-from-within could make for themselves would likely far outstrip the risk of being exposed and-or summarily fired. Career fallout for an employee in their twenties would also be less damaging than for someone like Koss.

Would it really do harm at this point if @Current issued a brief statement in support of the new effort to gain amnesty for Ling and Lee? Almost certainly not, given that the spark for this new 1,000,000-petition signatures movement came from within North Korea, via a July 7th telephone call from Laura Ling that could easily be interpreted as voicing the diplomatic trigger intentions of the captor-country as much as those of the captive.

While @AlGore has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to try and pry open a diplomatic door with Pyongyang, his back channel efforts have appeased only close followers of the case. Even if his San Francisco-headquartered global roaming outfit is fearful of having to address the issues of falsified Chinese visa declarations or perilous border reporting guidelines, it still feels like the time is right for a respectful public acknowledgement of the amnesty effort by President of Programming David Neuman or some other @Current executive.


Filed under: Mitchell Koss

22 Responses

  1. Spelunker says:


  2. Nikita says:

    Is there a good article that covers why a gag order makes sense? I can see why it made sense in the beginning, but at this point when so much time has passed, it seems to me that it would be far better if the civilized world formed a united front demanding release of the journalists interpreting their detainment as an act of war. This would make it more dangerous for the North Korean government to use the girls as bargaining chips.

    Just a disclaimer: I do NOT know much about this subject and apologize if my position seems ignorant. I am very afraid of taking any position completely as the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Having said that, I feel like taking a US citizen hostage in this manner is completely unacceptable.

    • liberatelaura says:

      There have been a couple of good lengthy blog posts about Mitch Koss, and a @Current employee confirmed some of the details of the gag order @Gawker, but overall on the internal machinations of this topic, no.

      Yours is not an ignorant question at all: the puzzlement is why @Current maintains this position, and the answer may well be fear of financial liability. Somehow, perhaps, they have come to the conclusion that speaking out will lead to risk of complications for a possible upcoming IPO.

      • Nikita says:

        If true, this would be very hypocritical. Especially with the Vanguard series, Current seemed to be going for the image as a company standing for the vibrant and uncompromising young generation breaking barriers and standing for humanity over everything else. If the decision is business-related, that would be… bad.

        Again, if I understand the situation correctly, Current should be mobilizing youth internationally to be uncompromising about release of the two journalists through any means possible and, since pushed into this position, they should bring down the heat on the human rights violations in North Korea so that North Korea actually has negative consequences from this event thus discouraging them from future abductions.

        IF Current is really a corporate antithesis of itself, then Current journalists should leave Current and join/start another network that would live up to the image.

        Having said that, it seems to me that taking this path may be dangerous as it could make Laura and Euna more valuable as bargaining chips in international politics and could put them in danger. So the IPO argument may be a front for a political argument that might require energy to understand that most people would not spend.

        Also, becoming more aggressive seems to be in the business interests of Current as, instead of being some stale hippy backyard experiment that many perceive it to be, it would become a major force securing a much larger international audience.

        Come to think of it, I don’t understand what’s going on on. Some parts of Current seem young, fresh and vibrant (design, some programming) and some parts feel completely stale (some programming, advertising strategy, the boring commentators trying to be hip, etc.) Would it be accurate to say that Current has become a large entity with aggressive, young, “good” people stuck in a company with disenchanted and jaded management?

  3. DIANE says:

    Absolutely right!!! I have written Current off. They should be ashamed at how they have handled this situation. Oh better yet NOT HANDLED the situation.
    Shame on Current TV!!!!!!

  4. Spelunker says:

    On the occasion of today’s vigil in Sacramento, Spelunker has used his secret account at Current TV’s website to post a couple of hidden messages supporting Laura and Euna!

  5. Spelunker says:

    I just watched a Current TV Vanguard program featuring Laura Ling and Mitch Koss in “China’s Wild West”. It is a 2008 documentary on the Uighurs of Xinjiang province. In one segment Laura and Mitch actually cross China’s border into Kazakhstan to interview Uigher defectors.
    There is one amusing scene of Mitch Koss tasting salt at a Xinjiang salt mine. You can also see Laura Ling try to swim in a salt lake.

    *** Current TV will replay this documentary today at 3:30 p.m. California time, (6:30 in Washington DC) on DIRECTV Channel 358. ***

    I highly recommend this show not only for the footage of Laura and Mitch but also for the timeliness of this particular subject matter as Xinjiang’s riots continue to be in the news.

    • liberatelaura says:

      Thanks for the heads up; have notified our @LiberateLaura followers. Also co-opted your great theory for separate tweet to the effect that perhaps @AlGore will wrap around a side trip to Pyongyang when he visits Melbourne on Monday for Safe Climate Australia bkfst address. The timing is right!

  6. Spelunker says:

    Things are moving quickly now: I have the links for the following but news is breaking as I type:

    18:48 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009

    This is the first time that Mrs Clinton has appealed for amnesty for Ms Ling and Ms Lee.

    She said the two reporters had expressed “great remorse for the incident”, adding that “everyone is very sorry that it happened”.

    Mrs. Clinton’s comments also coincide with a signal from North Korea that it would release the two journalists if the US made a formal apology.

    Dr. Han Park, a Korea-born professor at an American university, made the suggestion after a trip to Pyongyang.

    He also said North Korea had delayed sending the two journalists to a prison labour camp and was keeping them in a guest house.

    Professor Park has in the past acted as a link between North Korea and Washington, in an unofficial capacity.

    When asked whether Washington had sent Professor Park to Pyongyang, Secretary Clinton said she had no comment to make.

    According to Professor Park, who recently returned from Pyongyang, North Korea wants to hear an admission that the two strayed into their territory, and wants to hear it from US officials, before they release them.

    Separately, Park told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that the issue of the journalists could be resolved if the U.S. government offers an official apology and promises such things won’t happen again.

    He also predicted that Washington and Pyongyang could hold a dialogue soon over the journalists’ release and their return to the U.S., according to Yonhap. No timeframe for a possible meeting was given.

  7. Al Gore doesn’t have a backbone! He is as soft on terrorists as “Emperor Barry Obama” aka the head “Creampuff” as referred to by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. I’ve been writing blogs on my blogsite to get the clowns to do something, as early as the incident broke!

  8. Dream says:

    The older piece on China is a perfect example of why it’s hard to take Current/Vanguard seriously. Why is Ling swimming in a salt lake (has Current ever been to Utah?) to report on minorities in China? This makes my head hurt.

  9. Dream says:

    Or maybe Current is more clever than we think–that piece proves they couldn’t have done any seriously expose.

  10. Dream says:

    Comment on LA Weekly:

    I remember watching Current TV when they were running the Vanguard spots. I remember them SAYING in the adverts that they WERE going to be IN North Korea. I remember then thinking, “they don’t want to do that, they might get in serious trouble.” They pulled those spots but I bet someone has those late winter/early spring Vanguard adverts–they dis say that they were going into North Korea.
    Comment by Puddyfudge from Indianapolis on Jul 11th, 2009, 01:14 am

    • liberatelaura says:

      Wow, that is crazy. Thanks for relaying that provocative LA Weekly article comment. Am going to tweet it.

  11. Spelunker says:

    You’ve got huge bombshell there if it’s true, although by now I would guess Current TV’s Legal Department destroyed those tapes just like Nike disposed of that recent video showing LeBron getting dunked on.

    As for the Vanguard documentary on Uighers and Xinjiang province, I thought it was pretty good.
    The salt lake and salt mine are a popular rest stop on the long road between Urumqi and Kashgar, so don’t think of that brief bit as frivolous reporting.

    I thought Laura did a good job trying to interview Uighers and she took care not to cause any trouble. They even made an excursion to Almaty, Kazakhstan to interview Uigher exiles and did not show the faces of those who chose to remain anonymous. I haven’t seen a better documentary on Xinjiang’s Uighers from the major networks, so Current TV deserves a pat on the back from me. (By the way, did you see the Uigher man pat Laura’s behind?)

    • liberatelaura says:

      Yes, as far as tracking down this alleged @Current teaser promo for Ling-Lee-Koss NK trip, it would have to come down to someone having permanently saved a @Current piece on TiVo/DVR that happened to also have that as one of the commercials. Needle in a SF haystack, definitely.

  12. Spelunker says:

    The main problem I have with this teaser promo post from “Puddyfudge” is Laura Ling. I just don’t think Lisa would go along with the idea of her dear little sister infiltrating North Korea. Would Laura keep it a secret from Lisa? Maybe less than 1% chance. Would Lisa consent once she found out about such a planned caper? No way. 0%. I still believe it had to be a last minute decision.
    Even Pastor Chun Ki-won, who helped organize Current TV’s northeast China itinerary, warned Euna not to get too close to the actual border.

    Now I do have in my possession a Chinese news article featuring Pastor Chun Ki-won saying that he did in fact suggest Current TV visit the Tumen River border area in a telephone conversation at 6 a.m. on March 17. This legitimate news article can still be found using a Chinese Google search.

    The article includes an interview with Pastor Chun Ki-won, who says it was indeed his suggestion for the Current TV crew to visit the Tumen River after all (English translation by Spelunker):


    Reverend Chun Ki-won, who was responsible for organizing the itinerary, asserted: “On March 17 around 3 a.m. the 3 journalists and their local guide said they wanted to continue interviews. Around 6 a.m. I had my last telephone conversation with the girls, they had already completed the interviews, so I suggested they go to the Tumen River border area. However I reminded them that this area is very dangerous so they should not take action until after consulting with me. Yet afterward they did not consult with me and we lost touch. It wasn’t until the afternoon of March 19 when China’s border patrol announced the detainment of two men that I knew something wrong happened.”

    Referenced Chinese link:

    • liberatelaura says:

      So this would mean Ling-Lee-Koss crossed border in daylight? Interesting, as majority of news reports have always said middle of the night (e.g. 2:00-3:00 am).

  13. Spelunker says:

    Judging by the content of the aforementioned Chinese article, I believe the Current TV crew was still conducting interviews in Yanji during those early morning hours (3-6 a.m.).
    Keep in mind that there is a China government bounty on the heads of North Korean refugees in Yanji, so I guess it’s not a good idea for a foreign TV crew to interview them on the street or in KFC.
    Also the assignment Laura and Euna were in Yanji reporting on included talking to North Korean women involved in the sex trade, so you can imagine the odd hour those poor souls get off work.

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