May 20, 2010
Posted: 10:26 AM ET
Editor's note: Laura Ling is co-author with her sister, Lisa Ling, of "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home" (HarperCollins)
Los Angeles, California (CNN) - On June 8, 2009, nearly one year ago, I stood before a judge in North Korea's Supreme Court and was sentenced to 12 years in one of the country's notoriously brutal labor camps, also known as death camps.
My legs wobbled in fear, and I grabbed the podium in front of me, fearing I would faint.
Three months earlier, I was on assignment for Current TV. I was repoting on the trafficking of North Koreans, most of them women, who escape to neighboring China, where they are used and exploited. Following a local guide we'd hired, my colleague Euna Lee and I did regretfully step foot into North Korean territory for no more than a minute.
As we made our way back to China, North Korean soldiers chased us onto Chinese soil and violently dragged us back into North Korea.
We were the first Americans tried in North Korea's highest court. Our sentence, two years for trespassing and 10 for "hostile" acts, shows where the North Korean government's real concerns lie. Leery about a negative portrayal of its regime, the North Korean authorities decided the documentary we were making would threaten their government. It was seen as a hostile act meant to weaken or bring down the country.
No country on Earth is more paranoid about its image than North Korea, which has maintained its firm grip on power in part because of its ability to indoctrinate its people. North Korea is one of the world's most closed-off societies, with little known about what goes on inside. Its citizens know little about the outside world.
Filed under: Larry King Live
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