As we inch towards Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s promised Op Ed, I thought it might be useful to run through some of the questions I am hoping will be answered. The journalists’ guide is reportedly still in Chinese custody, while cameraman-producer Mitch Koss recently told @NYTimes that he will withhold comment until after Euna and Laura have their say.
1) What did the good Reverend really say?: Though Durihana Reverend Chun Ki-won has repeatedly claimed that he warned Ling, Lee and Koss against crossing the North Korea–China border when he last spoke to Euna, one has to wonder why a mother would ignore such advice if it was given. Recent revelations about the Reverend have cast further aspersions on the purity of his Seoul soul, so it all starts with what was said over the telephone to Euna in the pre-dawn hours of March 17th.
2) How was the particular border location chosen?: Assuming Ling, Lee and Koss decided on a whim to venture to the frozen Tumen River, it becomes paramount to understand how the specific location was agreed upon, since the well-patrolled spot (on both sides) suggests subterfuge on the part of the guide. Was this the pre-agreed upon destination? Or was it the result of a last-minute decision?
3) What kind of footage was Laura seeking?: Much speculation surrounds the fact that for a story about the trafficking of female refugees, a visual of the stark North Korea–China border qualifies – at best – as non-essential B-roll. But Laura must have had a good journalistic reason to want to include footage from the Tumen River borderline. What was it?
4) Where exactly were Ling and Lee apprehended?: When the U.S. State Department confirmed on June 12th that Ling and Lee had crossed the borderline, they reported that the entire incident took place within a few dozen meters. Meanwhile, the earliest CNN International reports of the arrest quoted South Korean intelligence as saying the women were seen fleeing back towards the Chinese side. How close to the borderline did they get back to? And how quickly did the Chinese border authorities show up? Was there a standoff between the two sides?
5) What was the exact nature of Ling and Lee’s interrogation?: When Ling and Lee were carted away from the March 17th arrest site, they were separately interrogated by parties unknown. How harsh was the process? Who was involved? It may well turn out that this phase of the episode, rather than the border arrest and bad-motel equivalent detainment, will prove to be the most egregious once all details are known.