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May 19, 2010

Laura Ling: Captive in North Korea

Posted: 06:36 PM ET
By Adam Yamaguchi

When the phone rings at 1 a.m., I usually ignore it. But early in the morning of March 19, 2009, I awoke to the sound of my cell phone buzzing on the nightstand. It was a call I never expected to get.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two of my colleagues at Current TV's documentary series, Vanguard, had been apprehended by North Korean soldiers and taken somewhere inside that black hole of a country. I sat up in bed, trying to absorb and understand what I'd just heard.

This week, Laura is finally speaking at length about her experiences, first on the Oprah Winfrey Show and then on Current in a special, very personal episode of Vanguard.

The story Laura and Euna were working on - about women from North Korea whose lives as refugees were still fraught with danger and fear - hadn't set off major alarms when they set out. Laura was my boss, an accomplished journalist who had reported on stories in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. She had just covered the drug trade in Juarez, Mexico - one of the most dangerous places in the world - and she'd worked extensively on sensitive stories in China.

Euna was an editor who normally worked only in the office, on her first trip as a field producer. Mitch Koss, the producer on the shoot, had an extensive career in journalism. He'd even previously reported on missionaries helping refugees out of North Korea - right in the same area that he, Laura and Euna had headed out to.

When you're out in the field, you never know what may go down. Risk profiles change constantly, and what may at one moment be a perfectly "safe" story can suddenly become risky. Considering where our teams had been in the past, we've always exercised a high degree of caution on the field, constantly weighing the risks and rewards of our every move. Laura and her team were taking precautions, and it didn't seem like a story that required much risk. We had no idea that they would be in a situation where things would spiral out of control so quickly.

That early morning after first getting the news, I braced myself, then called Current's CEO, Joel Hyatt, who quickly relayed the message to the network's chairman, Vice President Al Gore. I then reached out to Laura's and Euna's families. It was frightening and surreal.

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Filed under: Larry King Live


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Smith in Oregon   May 19th, 2010 7:18 pm ET

Yikes, locked up in North Korea, what a nightmare that would be!


Smith in Oregon   May 19th, 2010 7:24 pm ET

It looks like many of the North Korean people are lucky to even have a single bowl of rice a day, I wonder how meager the food is to their prisoners? Involuntary starvation is the menu for the day?


jamie   May 19th, 2010 10:07 pm ET

left an message here but you deleted. these girls should not have gone over the line. take the consequences but now they are on tv and have a book deal. larry king get back toward the middle. clinton would not have helped me.. think of the ones in Iran that did the same as these two but they are well known. you embarass me, larry.


Toni   May 19th, 2010 11:57 pm ET

Does anyone get the impression these girls are media opportunists.


Charlene   May 20th, 2010 3:57 am ET

jamie and toni....i agree with you both wholeheartedly. And yes....cnn tends to delete alot of good posts. they are no longer a "news" network and lkl is one giant commercial. the women broke the law, which makes them criminals and now they are trying to profit. it's pretty sickening stuff.

I personally think it is unpatriotic and unamerican. lisa ling lied to the north koreans and the American public when she said she knew her sister did not intend to break the law. now we hear the sister admitting it. and she wants our money to reward her to read her crappy book. no thank you.

now how about lkl and cnn put one of the thousands of real American heroes on their show instead of these admitted criminals and opportunists. words cannot even describe how vile and sickening these women are to me.


Jessie from Auckland, NZ   May 20th, 2010 4:47 am ET

I think these ladies are very passionate about what they do. Would you risk what they did to get a story. One that probably needed telling. We are supposed to be living in the 21st Century and not the Dark Ages.

I take my hat off to these women and they don't need the slagging off either. They are very brave. I don't think they did this for themselves.

Thank the Lord they arrived safely back home.


Brian   May 20th, 2010 5:43 am ET

Sorry you were duped into crossing the border. Sorry you lacked the foresight to investigate where you were going. Sorry that high profile people were required to set you free. (but happy for your release).

Sorry, but I will not reward your naiveity by buying your book.


Ted   May 20th, 2010 9:07 am ET

Sure, they were duped!!
Thousands of mexicans are duped every day to cross our borders!
They donĀ“t want to do it. but are duped by CIA, NSA and other agents.


Dodie   May 20th, 2010 11:49 am ET

If the Ling sisters are so passionate about helping the individuals in need, why not donate the proceeds from their book to that cause?


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