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Two US journalists transferred to Pyongyang for questioning

Euna Lee (left) and Laura Ling.

The two American women journalists who were arrested at the border between North Korea and China on March 17 have been transferred by the North Korean authorities to Pyongyang for questioning, according to Reporters sans Frontières (RSF).

The detention of Euna Lee (who is of Korean descent) and Laura Ling (who is of Chinese descent) was confirmed by the North Korean press on March 21. The fact that the state media reported their arrests suggested the government was directly involved.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted an unidentified Chinese source as saying it was probable that the two journalists were taken to Pyongyang for interrogation by North Korean military intelligence. North Korea could try to exploit the arrests politically, the agency said.

A source close to the case said the US government has begun negotiations with the North Korean government with a view to obtaining their release.

The North Koreans claim that the two journalists, who work for the California-based web TV station Current TV (current.com), illegally crossed into North Korea from China while shooting video along the river. Other sources deny that they crossed the border. Their Chinese guide is also apparently being held by the North Korean authorities.

“We call for the immediate release of these two American journalists and their guide,” RSF said. “We also urge the Chinese authorities to intercede on behalf of the two journalists as they were probably on Chinese soil when they were arrested.”

It is very difficult for the foreign press to work freely in the Chinese border province of Jilin, although reporting rules allowing the international media more freedom were renewed last October. North Korea is ranked lower than any other Asian country on the RSF press freedom index.

Chun Ki-won, a Seoul-based protestant pastor who helps North Korean refugees, said he met with the two journalists in order to help them to prepare their reporting on the refugee story in the border area.

The South Korean TV station YNT said the two journalists were filming on the Chinese side of the river when North Korean border guards ordered them to stop. According to the YNT account, when the journalists ignored the orders, the North Koreans crossed the river to arrest them. The South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo meanwhile reported the arrest of only one journalist.

Date posted: March 25, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 530