May 19, 2010
Posted: 06:36 PM ET
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.
Filed under: Larry King Live
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