As we await the first TV interview with Laura Ling and Euna Lee (most likely @current) about what exactly happened on the North Korean-Chinese border, it’s worth at this point briefly revisiting and clarifying what we do appear to know about the fateful circumstances of March 17th.
Time of arrest: Records show that the sunrise for that area of China on March 17th was 5:34 a.m. The full, longer Korean-language account of Ling and Lee’s arrest issued by KCNA states that the pair were apprehended at around 6:00 a.m. local time, not 2:00 am–3:00 a.m. as was widely initially reported and still to this day propagated in some articles. Presumably, Ling, Lee and Koss chose to count on the very early morning light for their brief border excursion, but what this crucially means is that the pair of North Korean border guards who apprehended them did so in daylight, not the middle of a dark night.
The Reverend’s phone calls: Durihana’s Reverend Chun, who helped organize the China trip and recommended the guide, spoke with Euna Lee at approximately 3:00 a.m. and then again around 6:00 a.m. on the morning of March 17th. But since he is based in Seoul, he was an hour ahead of the reporting team. E.g., Euna took those calls at 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. local time.
At the time of the 2:00 a.m. call, she and her colleagues were in Yanji, China, wrapping up interviews with women involved in the sex industry. And according to Chinese media, during the 5:00 a.m. call Reverend Chun suggested they go to the Tumen River border area. The Reverend also claims that he told them not to do anything further (e.g. actually go up to the border, or cross) until they spoke to him again.
Point of crossing: Though I previously blogged that Ling and Lee crossed right at Mapai Village, further research indicates that it was actually a spot in Yueqing, an area between Mapai Village and the town of Tumen. It is roughly a 45-minute drive from Yanji to the border, so arriving presumably around 5:45 a.m. – and perhaps encouraged by the guide – they chose to venture to a spot on the Tumen River. The KCNA release designates the area as North Hamgyong . (A satellite map of the area can be accessed via the previous blog post “Mapai Marks the Spot”)
The non-existent courtyard: The KCNA report claims that the voiceover narration of the seized video materials stated “We are now entering North Korean territory without permission.” Somehow, one or more media outlets, in their haste to spread the news of North Korea’s official version of the trial details, mistranslated that into a “courtyard.” The error was later rectified, but some still bring this up today, so just to confirm, there was no courtyard.
Materials: According again to the Korean language version of the KCNA trial details release, Ling, Lee and Koss flew to China on March 9th with $9,950 U.S. and declared themselves to be computer experts with “Current Holding.” They visited the DMZ in South Korea on March 11th and then arrived in Yanji on March 13th. When seized by the border guards, they surrendered one video camera (the one operated by Euna), six videotapes, a digital camera, one “souvenir” stone, 17 photos and two multimedia information notebooks.
Does this mean that after being questioned and released by Chinese border authorities, Mitch Koss returned to the U.S. with the other video camera and footage? If so, and if that is ever broadcast, it would obviously provide an incendiary final image to go along with the Burbank Airport celebration scene of August 5th.