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Thursday's Connector: Laura and Lisa Ling

May 13th, 2010
01:02 PM ET

In March 2009, North Korea announced that it had arrested two American journalists for illegally crossing into the country and attempting to film refugees crossing into China.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/13/ling.art.gettyimages.jpg
caption="Laura and Lisa Ling are your Connector's of the Day."]

At first the identities of the two women were not known, but three months later it was officially announced that the two Americans were Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

The pair were working for American television network, "Current TV" at the time of their arrest and argued that they never intended to cross into North Korea and that it was all a mistake.

However, in June of last year, the pair were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korea prison camp.

While the pair were imprisoned, there was strong pressure by the U.S. government to argue for their release.

At the center of the campaign was Laura Ling's sister, Lisa.

The former "View" chat show host and freelance journalist, Ling led the charge to help see the release of her sister and friend.

Lisa Ling worked closely with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and after an unannounced visit by the statesman in August of 2009, North Korea released Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

Today, Laura and Lisa Ling are about to release a new book titled "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home" which hits stores on May 18.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Jurgen R. Brul

    Hello Laura G. Ling, Lisa J. Ling and CNN friends,

    What has inspired you to write your new book "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home?" What needs to be done to Stop Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in North Korea and the rest of the world? What is needs to be done to really connect North Korea and South Korea?

    Jurgen R. Brul
    Paramaribo, Suriname

    May 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  2. Aaron Allermann

    Hey, guys, it's Aaron.

    Obviously, you wish something like this had never happened. But it having happened, do you think you two have come out any better or worse for the experience? Do you think the ordeal has somehow improved you as people... if that makes sense?

    Aaron Allermann
    Watertown, Wisconsin, United States

    May 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  3. Ashiru u gabasawa

    What intented them to write the book and book concern about. Ashiru kano Nigeria

    May 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  4. Lameck Sithole

    No environmental pollution is justifiable . However , this only shows the hypocrisy of the media covering the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. BP Shell is polluting in Nigeria daily over the last 3 decades and there is no coverage of this tragedy. Lets get real tell BP to clean up everywhere.

    May 13, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  5. Rob Chas

    What do you think of Justin Bieber?

    May 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  6. Blankson Osim

    In one sentence, how would you describe your experience in prison?
    Blankson osim. Lagos, Nigeria.

    May 14, 2010 at 9:23 am | Reply
  7. Olivia Yasukawa

    Hi Laura and Lisa! I'm huge fans of both of your work!
    First question to Laura - Can you tell me what the conditions were like in the North Korean prison? What did you eat, what were you made to do durnig the day, etc?
    Lisa - What involvement did you have in the behind the scenes negotiations to have Laura and Euna freed? Did you work closely with Bill Clinton?

    Also – have your views towards North Korea changed - what about the North Korean people?

    May 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  8. Joshua Stanton

    Lisa has publicly acknowledged that it was a grave mistake to cross into North Korea. Some of us worry that this decision endangered the lives of North Korean refugees, activists who assist them, and the clandestine networks used to rescue other North Korean refugees. For example, according to some reports, Laura and Euna carried video showing the faces of refugees and activists with them across the border, and that the North Korean border guards found that video.

    I don't question Laura and Euna's good intentions in trying to tell an underreported story, and what is done cannot be undone. But can you tell us what you plan to do to at least balance the unfortunate and unintended consequences of your capture?

    May 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  9. Keira


    I'd like to ask Laura: what was your lowest point through this ordeal? Was it the actual capture? Setting foot in a prison? Or neither?

    And for Lisa: After Laura & Euna's capture, does it make other journalists like yourself think twice or question venturing into a place like North Korea? Or does it make you forge ahead to expose the realities of a particular country??

    Thanks much!!!


    May 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  10. Greg

    To me, both of you just come off as naive and disingenuous. It's hard to believe that you crossed over the border 'by mistake'. Your behavior and reporting is trite and manufactured. What do you have to tell that others haven't already told, better and more completely with more background and less interest in selling 'stuff', especially when you should be embarrassed that your situation was entirely self-made?

    May 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  11. Tim Emerald

    Every journalist working in China knows that the Yalu river is the border between China and North Korea. Crossing it could not have been a mistake as you claimed. It was an irresponsible intention. Do you have any idea how many people were arrested because of your actions? How will they get help? I doubt that Bill Clinton will come to China to get at least your Chinese interpreter released.
    And how do you come to terms with knowing how much damage you caused to people and agencies you filmed?

    May 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  12. Ian M

    Is it true that North Koreans never smile?

    May 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  13. Ricky Tjandra

    a very simple question, what was your typical daily life like while you were imprisoned?

    May 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  14. Oyvind Soroy

    What did you get to eat while you were there? :3

    May 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  15. Chris Fisher

    I am delighted you were released by North Korea. Is there not however a danger that releasing your book will prevent north korea or other nations from releasing prisoners in similar situations knowing that the will then go a publicise a book about their conditions?

    May 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  16. T1Brit

    'Life in a North Korean propaganda movie' is what it should be.

    Does anybody actually believe that these two women were kept in the same conditions as North Koreans ?

    Reports from ordinary people are of horrific tales of torture and suffering in the prisons that are like a hell on earth.

    Did these two women suffer like that? – Of course not.

    They were only taken so they could be used as a propaganda weapon – so Clinton could come and kiss the feet of that cruel little dictator and make him look like a humanitarian.

    And how beautifuly it has worked. How happy they look on TV – as the thousands and thousands of people still in the prisons suffer in agonizing hell without end.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  17. alex

    this question to lisa ling..u once did a documentary about folsom state prison(i was there at the tiime) let me just say this,u were never allowed to talk to the people that knows the truth..u only saw and talked to the ppl they want u to talk to,most were jailhouse rats!!!anyway,now that ur sister been thru the ringer how do u feel about the abuse that u never got to witness but told about by ur own blood???
    u should do a new docmentary,but this time talk to ppl that been there!!

    May 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  18. Peenut in Seoul Korea

    Not another book? Folks how would these two women possibly know anything about survival in a North Korean prison? It is obvious they were ignorant to the current political climate in SE Asia and/or thought they were some sort of priviledged class and wanted to make a bold statement gone wrong. What a waste of time...

    If you want to read a tragic story of surival then do not, I repeat do not, invest your hard earned money on this tabloid trash. Go out and find the book called, "Aquariums of Pyongyang". The book vividly portrays what life in a gulag was/is like for a Korean family who were betrayed and then sentenced to North Korean's penal system for an undetermined period of time of re-education.

    I have been in Seoul, South Korea for over 12 yrs but I don't know anything about the country and its people. Anyway, don't take my word for it, research yourself and find this book. What these two women produce is nothing more then a recipe of, "who I how I screwed up and because we have connections I was able to use a get out of jail free card".


    May 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  19. Steve

    If I recall, these two were immediately sequestered into house arrest. They never saw one second inside a North Korean Prison. I do not think the North Koreans wanted anyone to see the inner workings of a North Korean Prison and live to tell about it. The North Koreans knew they had a PR propaganda gold mine with these two so they went for it.

    So these two journalists were NEVER inside a North Korean Prison.

    May 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  20. lance

    You crossed over by mistake. Same as the 3 in Iran. Do you expect us to believe this? How much of the proceeds of your book will you donate towards charity?

    May 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  21. cohjesplux

    How was the food?

    May 14, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Reply
  22. bob

    You are really despicable, always trying to profit for yourselves. You have no ethics.

    Lisa Ling, gets into N. Korea to make her little documentary by lying through her teeth every step of the way. You're lucky your sister didn't get put in front of the firing squad for this reason alone.

    The two pathetic women never were in any sort of prison. They were in a guesthouse. It was a freaking holiday, and now they write a book about it? And now there's another American being held in N. Korea. Why isn't Bill Clinton over there securing his release.

    May 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  23. Ryuk

    If you care about the life in the Korean prisons, better read "The Hidden Gulag" than the testimony of those two illegal border crossing "journalists". Thanks to their actions, the US government had to go all the way to Pyongyang and bow down to Kim. Now suddenly they thought to make some bucks out of phony testimonies of their house arrests and point the finger at how bad and evil North Korean regime is. PATHETIC.

    May 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  24. Tsutomu

    I am writing from Japan.

    They should be ashamed of themselves. Their stupid and selfish actions led to other people in China and N. Korea getting arrested, and now they want to make money from their experiences. Plus, in order to get them back, the US had to "give" during the 6-party talks in E. Asia. They should have been left in N. Korea.

    Do they understand how much their stunts set back negotiations? And now they want to make bucks off it. Disgusting.

    May 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  25. jimmygraham

    Do you think the North Koreans are crazy enough to start another war?
    That is the million dollar question.

    May 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  26. desert voice

    I am glad they were spared 12 years of hard labor, which would have ruined their figures. But in the larger scheme of things, the media I have read today some place, annouced that the North Koreans have have succeeded in perfecting the atomic bomb making process. I find this more scary than the ordeal of Lisa and Laura.

    May 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Reply
  27. Michelle B

    This is for Allen Allerman, the people involved were female, not GUYS, you must not have read the article correctly

    May 14, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  28. Joseph

    The situation with North Korea and that area of the world is in a pretty precarious position, and current policies are not going to help the situation. Regardless of the US' views on communism, and that way of life, we cannot impose our own ideals on this country. If we wish to defuse a potentially catastrophic situation, we need to offer North Korea a mutually beneficial deal- disarm and cease from progressing your nuclear program, and we will promise to not ever attempt a regime change, as well as lift numerous, if not all, economic sanctions. This will help the N. Korean people immensely, as well as provide a higher level of security for the entire region and world.

    May 14, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  29. Chad

    Absolutely correct Ryuk, these women broke the law of a foreign country. I am an ex-patriot American and I'm reasonably sure that if I am arrested in this country or a neighboring one, a former president would not come to get me.

    Giving Kim Jong Il a fauning Bill Clinton was a propaganda coup for North Korea. If thier intention was to empower him, they succeeded. Their media link means that they will get sympathetic coverage, but they should be shunned.

    May 15, 2010 at 12:49 am | Reply
  30. Donald L

    Before anyone reads this book I think they should read the "Aquariums of Pyongyang." I believe it is probably a more in depth look into North Korean prisons. I am sure the two journalists were faced with hard times during their time in the prison, but to be honest they were U.S citizens, they were bargaining chips. The North Koreans, in my opinion, had no intentions of killing them, what good is a dead hostage...
    Regardless, I'm sure the book will be touching, but because I read the Aquariums of Pyongyang I doubt her story will seem any bit as epic.

    May 15, 2010 at 1:37 am | Reply
  31. Spelunker

    Dear Laura Ling:
    You claim that North Korean sentries dragged you across the border from China's sovereign territory, but China refuted this statement. Will Mitch Koss clear this up once and for all on May 19?

    You claimed that you did not know that you, Euna, and Mitch may have been led into a trap by your guide; do you still maintain this claim today and say that you actually believed you were crossing the Tumen River to conduct an interview with North Koreans? Please restate your original intent because I believe crossing the Tumen was not necessary for the refugee story that you were reporting on in Yanji.
    (Current TV's crew was supposed to continue to Dandong in China's Liaoning province on the day of the Tumen River caper.)

    Thank you in advance for all the details you can provide in response.

    May 16, 2010 at 2:17 am | Reply
  32. Glans

    Dear Lisa and Laura, I love you both. I've already ordered "Somewhere Inside" and I want you to sign it! I hope Laura has recovered from her ordeal. Maybe you now clarify the circumstances of Laura's and Euna Lee's arrest – why did the Current Vanguard team enter North Korea, and whose idea was it? When apprehended, were they on a sandbar in the Tumen, or actually on the Chinese shore? Did Mitch Koss try to save them or did he abandon them to their fate? Were the North Korean and Chinese authorities able to identify their interview subjects? Those unfortunate people trusted the Vanguard team; what happened to them? I hope everything turns out for the best.

    May 16, 2010 at 5:18 am | Reply
  33. Ernst

    Ms Ling & Lee, when are you going to admit that you ladies actually don't really care what is happening in North Korea rather care more about your vanity ? It is quite clear to even an untrained eye that you're just in it for the money, the people isn't fooled.

    Admit it, you were never really good journalists and by deliberately stepping into north Korea you bought yourself some overnight fame....

    Well, we're not fooled ladies, we see right through your con.

    May 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  34. brianhanson

    evrybody sat what they want i had know idea what was going on in northkorea untill the girls got onnews i critizedthem at first but wascurios and went to youtube i saw all the executions and badthings happen to the refugees . amotherwasexecuted fortrying togive herson a better life .ihave a new hatred for northkorea and will research what american companies do business there ,hopethe ladies do that next .i donatetocrossing borders and link . do a good deed and help a poor northkorean and god will bless you all

    May 18, 2010 at 11:08 am | Reply
  35. coty07

    I enjoyed the book and I am glad that Laura shared her harrowing time in captivity with us but I was left with wanting more details. The story answered many questions, but raised several more, that I hope someday will be answered.

    1. Laura told Mitch to keep shooting. He pointed the camera at her. How much of the capture of the women did Mitch get on film? Did he hide the film when he turned himself into the Chinese authorities? Does that film still exist, or did the Chinese confiscate it?

    2. Euna threw away her coat to get rid of her cell phone because of the phone numbers on it. Laura had her cell phone on her in captivity and mentioned deleting some pictures. Did Laura also have sensitive phone numers on her phone and was she able to delete those as well?

    3. The decision to go to the Tumin, which was not originally scheduled, is portrayed as a group decision, but what I was hoping to learn were the details of that discussion. Who originally brought up the idea? What pros and cons were discussed? Was anyone hesitant and needed persuading? Although the book is primarily about the capture of Laura and the work of Lisa, I was hoping to have more information on the pre-capture days in Korea and China.

    I do believe the whole tale is incomplete until we here from the other two, Euna and MItch.

    I also think that since Current apparantly has some of the footage from the trip that they could still make a compelling story about the Korean refuvgee situatuon.

    Thank you for any answers you are willing to supply.


    May 20, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  36. Jose

    North Korea said it craired out a second and more powerful nuclear test on Monday, defying international pressure to rein in its nuclear programs after years of six-nation disarmament talks

    February 7, 2012 at 6:48 am | Reply

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