North Korean labor camps a ghastly prospect for US journalists

North Korean labor camps a ghastly prospect for US journalists

“The first thing that passed through my mind when I heard about the verdict was that, from an American perspective, this is tantamount to a death sentence,” said Scott Snyder, director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy for the Asia Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

“There aren’t a lot of guarantees in that type of environment. It’s different from any prison that exists in the modern-day United States. This is a very sobering challenge for a new administration.”

North Korean defector Kim Hyuck, who spent a total of seven months between 1998 and 2000 in a “kyo-hwa-so,” said that the percentage of prisoners who die from the harsh conditions would be unimaginable in the west.

“It is not an easy place,” he said of the camps. “Centers for men and women are separate. But even [the] women’s place is not comfortable at all. . . . When I was in the center, roughly 600-700 out of a total 1,500 died.”

latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-korea-labor-camps9-2009jun09,0,3230915.story

i heard the breaking news last night that these two women were sentenced to 12 years.
i did not really know the circumstances of why they were arrested? evidently they are accused of entering the country illegally? is that correct. i know that lisa ling’s family was on larry king the other night, but i didn’t get to watch the whole program.

they will probably be used as bargaining points and i am sure that the president of NK feels like he has scored big by capturing these two women.

North Korea doesn’t have an embassy in the US, and the US doesn’t have an embassy in North Korea. From the US State Dept:

SAFETY AND SECURITY: DPRK Government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Do not take pictures unless you are told you can; taking unauthorized pictures can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention. DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure. Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.

travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_988.html

The Korean War was never resolved, there was no peace treaty. The conflict just paused with an armistice signed in 1953 and has remained a tense situation since then.

It could have been a lot worse-they could have been sent to GITMO…

According to the Associated Press, the exact circumstances are unclear. The two journalists were filming a news report about the trafficking of North Korean women. Its not certain whether they accidentally strayed in to North Korean territory, or whether North Korean guards crossed over into China to abduct them.
msnbc.msn.com/id/31160497/page/2/

North Korea broke the armistice a few days ago. So that isn’t even in effect anymore.

okay. thanks for giving me the info and link.

Where was there escort? I can’t believe they’d be allowed to go anywhere in China without an official guide.

My heart goes out to those two ladies, but they shouldn’t have been anywhere close to that border. They-and their employer, Al Gore-know darn well that any communist country just lays in wait for the opportunity to grab a journalist, and will jump any border to do it. They should have stayed at least 10 miles away. What they did was just asking for it. I hope North Korea backs off a little, but don’t count on it. “Anything for a story” does have common sense limitations…Roanoker

An excerpt from another article about the situation:

North Korea sentences 2 U.S. reporters to prison

"…Experts believe the trial serves as a political litmus test. They say North Korea had an opportunity to distinguish the journalists’ case from the political realm and temper an international image further damaged by the nuclear test.

But now those hopes have been cast into doubt with today’s verdict.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean studies, said the world will wait to see how Pyongyang handles its prisoners.

“Now that the results came out from the trial, the next step will be a political pardon and a diplomatic resolution,” he said. “It’s highly likely that Al Gore will visit Pyongyang as early as late this week.”

Source: latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-norkor-journalists8-2009jun08,0,3667915.story?page=1

Surely, the professor is wrong, and they will send someone other than Al Gore? That seems like an odd choice to me. I realize the journalists work for him, but still, surely someone else better versed in diplomacy will go?

While I don’t believe the punishment fits the crime (and North Korea is being crazy as usual) ; these two reporters were being reckless and foolish.

You’re over there illegally in a notorious country of a communist regime, risk going over the border without permission? What do you expect?? :confused:

I’m ambivalent, and the outrage from the celebs like Ashton Kutcher, seem to be placed out of not actually reading the details of the isolated scenario.

Now they’re being used to test U.S. politically, but the two journalists really are responsible for their capture, they were playing with fire trying to conduct reckless “hard hitting journalism”.
I also think the press is trying to soften or white wash the details about their negligence for the border.

According to the Associated Press, the exact circumstances are unclear. The two journalists were filming a news report about the trafficking of North Korean women. Its not certain whether they** accidentally strayed **in to North Korean territory, or whether North Korean guards crossed over into China to abduct them.

Sounds like they’re trying to excuse their risky behavior, with assumed innocence /ignorance “they didn’t know where they were” kind of thing.
How can you accidentally stray into territory, when you’re trying to expose things NK doesn’t want you to know?
When you’re dealing with NK, and existing international laws, you better be asking every second “Make sure we’re still in China,…please let us still be in China” (weren’t they guilty of espionage in a way :shrug:)

Still, North Korea labor camps :eek:

we should pray, because everybody is capable of making mistakes or bad decisions every now and then…they shouldn’t have to pay for it.

This seems to cast doubt on the premise of the original article:

Analysts in Seoul doubted that the journalists would spend time at one of the North’s notorious labor camps, where North Korean defectors said malnutrition and beatings were rampant. Rather, they said the journalists could be held at a “sanitized” prison that Pyongyang allowed international human rights officials to visit in the mid-1990s.
Source

[quote=SwizzleStick]Surely, the professor is wrong, and they will send someone other than Al Gore? That seems like an odd choice to me. I realize the journalists work for him, but still, surely someone else better versed in diplomacy will go?
[/quote]

From the source above,

Still, American officials appeared to be weighing whether to send a special envoy in a high-profile effort to seek the release of the two journalists. The two most likely candidates are former Vice President Al Gore, whose Current TV channel employs the two journalists, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who has visited North Korea several times and helped negotiate the release of two Americans in the 1990s.

There have been plenty of professional diplomats that have visited North Korea over the years. If the goal is to negotiate a detailed treaty, you definitely want a professional rather than some high-level politician. However, there isn’t really any substance to the detention of the journalists, and even if there were the North Koreans wouldn’t be interested in negotiating on the matter. Instead, the detentions are a symbol of North Korean defiance in the face of imperialist hegemony, or however they are spinning this. The best way to win concessions from the North is to give them something symbolic - say a visit by a former vice president, who was also a presidential candidate. The North Koreans will probably make it look like he’s there to apologize. The US administration doesn’t care that much because it’s all symbolism, they’re not conceding anything of substance.

Still, American officials appeared to be weighing whether to send a special envoy in a high-profile effort to seek the release of the two journalists. The two most likely candidates are former Vice President Al Gore, whose Current TV channel employs the two journalists, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who has visited North Korea several times and helped negotiate the release of two Americans in the 1990s.

Well, the above indicates my opinion is faulty and Al Gore may actually go. That still seems odd to me. Perhaps Gov. Richardson, due to his prior experience, will be the one chosen to go. Bottom line, though, prayer regarding a positive outcome is essential.

Guess you added this in an edit while I was posting. Anyway, thanks for this. It helps to clarify for me why Al Gore may be a logical choice after all. Thank you!

If that is the case, perhaps Obama should be the one to go since he is so “good” at apologizing for the U.S., business as usual. :smiley:

I speak out of ignorance, as I haven’t actually kept up with what Ashton Kutcher may have said on this or any other recent topic, but it doesn’t surprise me that he’s keeping his name in the news.

[quote=Veidical]Now they’re being used to test U.S. politically, but the two journalists really are responsible for their capture, they were playing with fire trying to conduct reckless “hard hitting journalism”.
[/quote]

There’s nothing particularly wrong with hard hitting journalism, and this is usually true even when it’s reckless. Doing this within North Korea, however, can be unwise.

[quote=Veridical]I also think the press is trying to soften or white wash the details about their negligence for the border.

Sounds like they’re trying to excuse their risky behavior, with assumed innocence /ignorance “they didn’t know where they were” kind of thing.
How can you accidentally stray into territory, when you’re trying to expose things NK doesn’t want you to know?
[/quote]

At first I thought like you that this was a bit of a whitewash, kind of like the articles written by Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll while embedded with US troops were later deleted once she was a hostage. It seemed pretty clear that you had to cross the river to get from Tumen, China to North Korea. However, I just looked at the map - the border is actually pretty convoluted in that area - it doesn’t seem difficult at all to wander accidentally into North Korea. Parts of the river are entirely in North Korea, and while presumably there is freedom of navigation if say you’re taking your fish to market, you could also be arrested if you were a wanted criminal. With that in mind, the journalists should have been extra careful, but nonetheless it is believable that they crossed the border accidentally.

al gore will go over and see what he can accomplish. i don’t think he is a good choice to send.

i have not heard anything from ashton kutcher. guess i missed it.

i am sure these two women must be really scared. surely they knew the risks before going though.

I’m sure if they did or did not go into North Korean territory is a just a trivial matter now. If anything I probably hope they are just being used as pawns/bargaining chips, then chances are they will probably be treated relatively well for propaganda purposes. That said I’m sure those two, their families, and those they work for are probably really anxious, and will not pass it off that all will end fine. So please keep them in your prayers.

I’m sure they may have known the risks, but I doubt anyone would have any idea what it would be like to go end up on the risk falling through.

North Korea is a strange and terrifying place, and it is still at war with the United States. There is a 14 part documentary posted on youtube called The Vice Guide to North Korea, and no, it has nothing to do with vice.

It is also a terrible place for North Koreans to have to live. Probably the only long term solution to the problem of North Korea is to change the regime. How to accomplish that is the question. Any outbreak of military hostilities with North Korea would result in the destruction of Seoul, South Korea in a matter of minutes, as NK is one of the mist highly militarized countries in existence.

The fact that two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea has focused attention on the network of brutal labor camps in that country which the State Department says hold an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 political prisoners.
Like many aspects of life in North Korea, relatively little is known about what life is like in the labor camps. In her introduction to a report on the camps by the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, Anne Applebaum, an expert on the Soviet gulags, wrote that the testimony of former prisoners suggests that “the North Korean camps were built according to a Stalinist model” and “continue to be run that way.” Ms. Applebaum’s brief summary of the conditions is harrowing:
As in Stalin’s time, North Koreans are arrested for trumped-up political “crimes,” such as reading a foreign newspaper, singing a South Korean pop song, or “insulting the authority” of the North Korean leadership. As in Stalin’s time, North Korean prisoners — even children — are given ludicrous and impossible work “quotas” to fulfill and are subjected to brutal, irrational punishments. And, as in Stalin’s time, North Korea’s leadership doesn’t want anyone to know any of these details, since such revelations not only will damage their foreign reputation but also put their own regime at risk.
The complete text of the report, “The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps,” assembled by David Hawk, is available online and includes testimonies from former prisoners and satellite photographs of camp sites.

thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/09/life-in-north-koreas-gulags/

Shin Dong Hyok, now 25, was an inmate from the day of his birth in the dreaded Yodok prison and is believed to be the only person to ever escape from there.
In a 2007 New York Times interview he described receiving the same meal of steamed corn and vegetable broth, three times a day for 14 years. Prisoners scavenged for frogs, mice, dragon flies and locusts. He told the Times he once ate corn kernels found in cow dung.

He says he was forced to watch his mother executed by hanging and brother shot by a firing squad.

abcnews.go.com/International/Story?id=7785836&page=2

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