Up until Euna Lee’s husband Michael Saldate’s insistence at a July 19th Chicago vigil that she and Laura Ling are being held at a Pyongyang medical detention facility, the general assumption had been that the pair were at a relatively comfortable guest house. From scholar Dr. Han S. Park, who recently returned from another visit to North Korea’s capital city, to veteran journalists such as Donald Kirk, the operative words have been “guest house.”
One possibility is that the journalists were recently, because of respective health conditions, moved from the guest house to a medical detention facility (a supposition that was hinted at in several news reports as well as during July interviews with @lisaling). In that case, perhaps they were formerly being kept at Pyongyang’s Paekhwawon State Guest House, where South Korean presidents and many other top dignitaries have previously stayed.
As far as the medical detention facility is concerned, it may well be nothing more than a secured section of a Pyongyang hospital such as the Red Cross Hospital, Pyongyang Medical College Hospital or the People’s Hospital. After all, it wouldn’t take much more than single guards posted outside Ling and Lee’s hospital rooms to keep them forcibly confined. Additionally, there is obviously nowhere for these long-suffering prisoners to hide if they were actually able to somehow slip away from their present location.
Ling’s recurring ulcer and Lee’s loss of weight bring into play another troublesome aspect of North Korea. As the State Department warns in its travel advisory for the DPRK, “For decades, medical facilities in North Korea have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity, as well as inadequate and often outdated skills among the medical staff. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Surgery should be avoided.”