GLAMOUReuna-lee-laura-ling_Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American journalists jailed in North Korea for 140 days earlier this year, have been named 2009 Women of the Year by Glamour magazine. Lee, 37, and Ling, 32, were on assignment for Current TV’s Vanguard Journalism unit based in Hollywood when they were captured by guards along the border of China and North Korea on March 17.

In June, they were sentenced to 12 years hard labor by a North Korean court after a closed trial in Pyongyang.

The Current reporters were freed Aug. 4 after former President Bill Clinton brokered their release and flew to the North Korean capital to fetch the pair in a private jet. Lee and Ling have made few comments on their capture and imprisonment since returning home three months ago.

“They are extraordinary women who were brave and resourceful, reporting a story that no one else was. They showed remarkable courage and initiative during their ordeal,” said former vice president and Current TV chairman Al Gore in reaction to the Glamour selection today.

Also named among the magazine’s 2009 Women of the Year were pop singer Rhianna; fashion designer Stella McCartney; California First Lady Maria Shriver; comedienne Amy Poehler; Google executive Marissa Mayer; athlete Serena Williams; pediatrician June Aronson; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice; The Women of Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign; and poet Maya Angelou.

Read the Glamour’s entire Lee-Ling tribute here.

North Korean emigre Ma Yung-ae (left) waves document at Flushing, NY press conference. She and Shin Yuu-mi (center) have charged controversial Durihana Church Pastor Chun Ki-won with sexual assault and intimidation. NK refugee Cho Yun-hee (right) also issued a statement. Photo by Kidoknews


RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J.—Two North Korean women refugees have alleged that a Seoul-based clergyman, famed for helping defectors flee the communist state, sexually assaulted them and used threats to keep them silent. The allegations first came to light back in May at a Flushing, NY press conference sponsored by a coalition of Korean American Christian organizations and a North Korean refugee aid group.

The two women, Shin Yuu-mi and Ma Yong-ae, told reporters Rev. Chun Ki-won, pastor and CEO of the Seoul-based Durihana, Inc., tried to rape them and used intimidation to prevent them from speaking out. The pair filed criminal sexual harassment complaints in June against Chun at the NYPD’s Queens-Flushing 109 Precinct and the Ridgefield Park Police Department in New Jersey, respectively. The New York edition of Joongahn Ilbo updated the story in its Aug. 10 edition.

Rev. Chun and his efforts to assist North Korean defectors were featured in the 2004 award-winning documentary Seoul Train by Colorado-based documentary filmmakers Jim Butterworth and Lisa Sleeth. In the February 2009 issue of National Geographic, Chun was the focus of Escape From North Korea by Tom O’Neill.

Current TV reporters Mitchell Koss, Euna Lee and Laura Ling consulted with Durihana’s Rev. Chun Ki-won in planning their ill-fated trip to the China-North Korea border March 17 that resulted in the arrests and imprisonment of Lee and Ling for 141 days in the DPRK capital. Chun has said he introduced the Current TV team to a guide Kim Seung-cheol, who reportedly accompanied the Americans onto North Korean soil on Mar. 17 but managed, along with Koss, to elude border guards.

Koss, Lee and Ling traveled to the region in early March to interview North Korean defectors for a story on the trafficking of refugee women into prostitution.

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Possibly the first time we’ve ever heard Euna Lee’s voice.

The kids from the Somalian Pirate Video team were calling the Epicanthus hotline all day yesterday saying they had scored on the best unedited, raw video of the Euna Lee-Laura Ling pre-dawn homecoming at Bob Hope Airport Wednesday. A CNN iReporter who goes by the name “Pixel” managed to embed herself in the hangar where gleaming white and chrome Boeing 737 carrying former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Lee and Ling taxied to a stop after its 5900-mile flight from North Korea. Watch.

Pixel via Somalian Pirate PhotosBy now, you all have seen edited network TV coverage of the Lee-Ling homecoming, but Pixel’s video is far more compelling. And, anyway, from the beginning Euna and Laura’s Most Excellent Adventure has been marked by a filtered flow of information, and frankly we’ve grown weary of all the carefully worded statements, cartoonish characterizations by media talking heads and withheld facts. That’s why we think Pixel’s stuff is so powerful… and refreshing.


About 30 seconds in, Pixel’s camera picks up audio from an excited Japanese reporter’s feed. A frail-looking Euna Lee is the first to emerge from the angelic 737. She seems stunned by the crowd and applause and does what’s natural to her—she bows. You can hear a woman’s voice (Pixel’s?) pointing out that Laura Ling’s husband Iain Clayton is constantly wringing his hands as he waits the last few seconds before being reunited with his wife. (The 140-day-long ordeal seems to have affected Clayton more than anyone. The quiet and measured Beverly Hills financial analyst appears drawn and depleted.)

An Emotional Laura Ling

Bill Clinton solidifies his place in history as modern folk hero and rock star stud. Clinton’s former White House chief of staff  John Podesta is the skinny dude in the dark suit on the far right. Tough-looking old guy in the short pants is the father of Michael Saldate, Euna’s husband. Everyone knows who Hana is. Joel Hyatt, the other Current TV exec on hand, stayed out of the shot frame left. Of note is that Current/Vanguard producer Mitchell Koss, who eluded capture that day in North Korea, was not seen at the airport homecoming.

Al Gore Speaks!

Mary Ling can’t keep her hands off daughter Laura. Gore mentions she’s been making a special soup to sooth Laura’s ulcer. (Mary Ling’s 24/7 efforts to win her daughter’s freedom is one of the yet untold stories of the entire incident.)  Little Hana Saldate, four, reaches for mommy’s hand. Hangar homecoming ends with beautiful sunrise.

H/T Pixel (Don’t sue us, baby)

CNN is reporting that word out of Pyongyang is that American reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling, captured on the China-North Korea border back on March 17 have been pardoned by Kim Jong-il following exhaustive negotiations between the North Korean leader and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Developing.

(North Korean news agency KCNA announced Sunday evening —1:30 p.m. June 8 in Pyongyang— that American journalists Euna Lee, 36, and Laura Ling, 32, both of Los Angeles, have been convicted and sentenced to 12 years hard labor for the “grave crime” they committed against North Korea.)

Veteran TV newswoman Lisa Ling led the families of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American journalists held in North Korea for border violations and “hostile acts” on a well-orchestrated, one-day media blitz of NBC, CNN and ABC June 1 and issued an emotional appeal for their release on humanitarian grounds. (Ms. Ling is the older sister of jailed Current TV managing editor Laura Ling.)

But there were subjects that were apparently off-limits to the interviewers that day—Matt Lauer (The Today Show), Larry King (Larry King Live) and Bob Woodruff (Nightline)—and despite his shaky credentials as a journalist only the suspender-ed septuagenarian dared to broach one of them: whether Lisa Ling herself had ever reported from North Korea under false pretenses. Here’s the elder Ling sister dancing around King’s question: Have you ever been in North Korea?

Not germane? In June 2006, Lisa Ling and Australian cameraman Brian Green, snuck into North Korea posing as members of  a medical delegation headed by Nepalese eye surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit. Images captured using miniature hidden cameras were combined with U.S. State Dept. and Dept. of Defense-provided footage and the result was Undercover in North Korea for the National Geographic Channel’s Inside series which aired in April 2007. Below is an excerpt from that controversial project critics termed one-dimensional propaganda “offering very little breadth and even less depth of interesting or new information. Lisa Ling is clearly over her head in terms of trying to report on something as weighty as geopolitics. Her style is trite and ill-prepared, over dramatized.”

Missing from MSM coverage of this worsening international incident is the real skinny on mysterious Vanguard Journalism executive producer Mitchell Koss, the veteran newsman who witnessed the capture of Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Koss, a 53-year-old 56-year-old Glendale, Calif. resident, reportedly eluded North Korean border guards back on March 17. He was briefly held by Chinese authorities and then released. After returning to the United States, Koss has refused all requests for interviews and has dropped out of sight. What if anything has Koss told the families of the imprisoned journalists?



via Lisa Ling


PYONGYANG, North Korea—The Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) announced in a Web site bulletin that the trial of American journalists Euna Lee (Seung-eun Lee) and Laura Ling began at 3 p.m. (11 p.m. PST /0600 GMT) here in the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

The reporters are charged with illegal entry in to North Korea and intention to commit hostile acts, charges that could carry sentences of 10 years hard labor.

via Lee-Ling Support page / Max Neubauer

NEW YORK—The families of two American journalists held for nearly three months in solitary confinement by the North Korean government flew here from their California homes this weekend and will appear on NBC’s Today Show at 7 a.m. and CNN’s Larry King Live at 9 p.m. EST (6 p.m. PST) on Monday, June 1. The families will also appear on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 Wednesday, June 3, 7 p.m., on CNN.

Euna Lee, 36, and Laura Ling, 32, who work for Current TV, the San Francisco-based multimedia news organization founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, were arrested March 17 near the North Korea- China border as they shot video footage of North Korean women and children fleeing to China. They have been charged with illegal entry and intention to commit “hostile acts” and are scheduled to stand trial in Pyongyang, June 4 (June 3 in the U.S.) before North Korea’s highest court.

Iain Clayton, Ling’s husband of 12 years, and Lee’s husband, Michael Saldate, have had very limited contact with their imprisoned wives.

Clayton, a Beverly Hills-based financial analyst, was the first to go public about his wife’s ongoing imprisonment with a post on the CNN Larry King Live blog May 29.

“As the trial date of June 4th approaches, I grow increasingly apprehensive and nervous about the fate of my wife, Laura Ling, and her colleague, Euna Lee,” Clayton blogged. “They have now been detained by the Government of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] for nearly three months. During this time I have had very limited contact with her and really, really miss her.”

Read Clayton’s entire blog post here.

L.A.-based actor/comedian Saldate has yet to issue a public statement on his wife Euna’s now 77-day-long ordeal, but he and the couple’s young daughter Hanna are also in New York to appear on the NBC and CNN programs. The trio will be joined by Ling’s parents, Doug and Mary Ling of Sacramento, and her older sister and fellow network TV reporter Lisa Ling.

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A nationwide candlelight vigil will be held Wednesday, June 3 to coincide with the trial of U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea. Accused to illegal entry into the DPRK with intent to commit hostile acts, Lee and Ling face five to 10 years hard labor if convicted. They were arrested March 17 near the China-North Korea border while videotaping a news story on women and children who flee the DPRK.

Responding to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton’s May 18 call for Americans to mount an Internet campaign to publicize the journalist’s plight. a core of Lee-Ling supporters has used social media site Facebook to organize nationwide candlelight vigils in support of the reporters, who have been held in solitary confinement since their capture by DPRK border guards.

Or, if you can’t attend a vigil, sign the online petition seeking the release of Euna and Laura, which will be delivered to North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Han Song-ryol.

Please bring candles for the vigils.

National Organizer: Brendan McShane Creamer
Email address:
Phone 215.699.4338

THE FAMILY of former Current TV reporter Laura Ling, who last year spent nearly five months as a captive in North Korea along with colleague Euna Lee, is shown (2nd right) at a banquet marking the opening of Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month held April 30 at L.A. City Hall. Reportedly, the baby, her first, is due in June. Laura is married to Santa Monica financial analyst Iain Clayton. Posing with Ms. Ling are (from left) brother-in-law Dr. Paul Song, sister TV journalist Lisa Ling, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Ling Sisters’ mother Mary Ling. Lisa and Laura’s book about Lee and Ling’s capture and detention in the DPRK, Somewhere Inside, will be released May 18 by Harper-Collins.

BURBANK—We are clearing our Lee-Ling file vaults. Ah, August 5, 2009: that’s the day former president Bill Clinton brought Current TV  babes journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling back to us from four months of R&R captivity in North Korean hotels guest houses jails. The scene was Hangar 25 at Bob Hope Airport. It was sun up. You all saw it live in HD on the news. But Harry Shearer and his syndicated Le Show had a different perspective—out of range of all the cameras and mics and up close and personal, somewhere inside the minds of Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Hillary Rodham. LISTEN.

In an interview marking the 25th anniversary of National Geographic’s Explorer TV telecasts, staff correspondent Lisa Ling recalled that the first time she walked through the offices of the magazine in 2002, “I knew I wanted to work here.”

A special two-hour retrospective Explorer: 25 Years airs Monday, April 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and Ling, 36, says for her the anniversary is both a time for celebration and reflection. One segment of tomorrow evening’s program shows how the Chinese American reporter went undercover posing a member of a Nepalese medical team to surreptitiously enter Kim Jong-il’s Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.

Interviewed by TV website Zap2It, Ling admits publicly for the first time that her 2007 undercover piece on North Korea for National Geographic TV, which was highly critical of that nation’s government, may been a factor in the five-month imprisonment of her younger sister Laura Ling, 32, two years later.

  • Nat Geo Explorer: Lisa Ling Reflect On Her Sister, Show’s Impact, Hanh Nguyen, Zap2It
  • Undercover in North Korea: “Not germane”? Larry King Live CNN
  • Euna Lee, Laura Ling, North Korea Archived Entries, Epicanthus

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Current TV producer Euna Lee Saldate and young daughter Hana.

Current TV correspondent Euna Lee, who with her colleague Laura Ling was captured by North Korea and sentenced to 12 years hard labor before being freed, is writing her memoir of the experience for the Broadway Books imprint of Random House, the New York Post and The New York Times reported today

She received a six figure advance for the book, tentatively titled, “The World is Bigger Now: A Memoir of Faith, Family and Freedom.”

Ms. Lee, a producer for Current TV, was arrested with a colleague, Laura Ling, by North Korean soldiers on March 17 while they were filming at the border between China and North Korea. According to The Times, Lee’s book will detail “her 140 days of imprisonment, her ongoing interrogation and her efforts to protect her sources and the subjects of her reporting,” as well as the importance of her religious faith during this time.

Ling is presently pitching her own book with her sister, the journalist Lisa Ling. A literary agent for the Lings did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

  • Freed Journalist to Write Memoir About Her Captivity, The New York Times
  • Six-figure Book Deal for Journalist Captured by North Korea, NY Post
  • Glamour Names Euna Lee, Laura Ling 2009 Women of the Year, Epicanthus
  • Human Rights Activists Say Current TV Reporters Jeopardized Efforts to Help NKorean Refugees, Epicanthus
  • Unedited Video of Euna Lee, Laura Ling Homecoming, Epicanthus

Photo by

Reaction is mixed to the Op-Ed article by Current TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling which detailed events leading to their 140-day imprisonment in North Korea, with readers leaving many comments critical of the reporters’ actions on the Los Angeles Times and Current TV websites.

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A Message From Euna Lee

August 12, 2009

August 10, 2009

It’s been 5 days since I arrived home from my traumatic experience.

Euna Lee Saldate / Hana's MommyWhat have I done… hmm… let’s see. I made scrambled eggs with Hana, I walked around the neighborhood with Michael and Hana after dinner, I combed Hana’s hair and dressed her for school, I danced and jumped with Hana, I went to a cafe and had a very happy time with Michael listening to his life and shared mine, I went to church and was able to sing unto the Lord.

I am slowly fulfilling the wish list that I made in North Korea one item at a time.

Every moment when I realize it’s real, when I am home and I am with my family, I think of all the individuals who were there at the vigils, who wrote letters to us and to the government, who read and followed our news and were

Knowing that you would not stop until we came home kept me going day by day in North Korea.

As soon as I got home, after I gave a long hug to my family, I wanted to thank the people who helped me. I wanted to let people know how grateful I was and am. I found myself surfing the Internet and reading different blogs and news articles about us. Then I realized that I felt separated again from my husband and daughter, just as I was for 141 days in North Korea.

I decided then not to go through all the emails and articles just yet. I have not checked the Facebook pages about Laura and I or the web site, Because I know that once I started to read them I would get caught up in all the love and support everybody gave me and I will neglect my family.

Hana is still a bit nervous about mommy going to work again. She told me today “Mommy, when I ask you to leave (she meant ‘come home’), please come home to me.” She told Doorie (one of my cats) “Doorie, if you don’t listen, mommy will go to the airport.”

I will wait for the time when Hana truly believes that mommy’s always there for her, then I will be free to share my stories and experiences in North Korea and be able to express how thankful I am.

My husband mentioned the names of so many individuals who helped us and supported us through this tough time. I won’t list the individual names here to thank because I believe you already know that I am talking to you when I say “Thank You.”

Again, I am blessed to have such support from everybody who participated and I won’t forget your love and I just want to say, “I love you too.”


via Free Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Monday was a long day for network TV reporter Lisa Ling. It started before the sun came up in a New York hotel room. She checked her e-mail and then she “friended” a few people on her Facebook account. As the sun was rising over Manhattan, she led her parents, two worried husbands and a four-year-old little girl into the NBC studios to launch a worldwide media blitz seeking the release of two American journalists being held by North Korea—one of them her sister, Laura Ling, and the other, Euna Lee,  the mother of that four-year-old.

First was a 7 a.m. slot on the Today show at 30 Rock. Then it was over to CNN on Columbus Circle  for Larry King Live which airs at 6 p.m. on the East Coast. Finally, it was up Broadway to 66th for ABC’s Nightline at 11:35 p.m.

By the time she was waiting for the start of her Nightline segment last night with Bob Woodruff, Lisa Ling, the desperate big sister with the destinies of two families and the weight of the world on her shoulders, was ready to lose it emotionally. She’d been under hot TV studio lights, working the phone or battling New York traffic for 20 consecutive hours.LisaLingNightline060109a

Then she lost it, tearing up as she talked about how virtual strangers had used Facebook to mount a nationwide support network for her sister and Euna Lee and how she finds solace in the kind words of Internet strangers.

“You know, it’s been amazing to us. Through Facebook—It’s been extraordinary—this whole grassroots movement has been born,” she said.

“I’ve been at home late at night feeling emotional, and I’ll post something so intensely personal on Facebook, and I don’t know who’s reading it, Ling told Nightline anchor Bob Woodruff.

“After I hit ‘update,’ I think to myself, ‘Why did I just post that for thousands of people I don’t know to see?’

“I think the reason is because there is no support group for this and for some reason when people I don’t even know send me a message that says ‘We support you.’ ‘We’re praying for you.’ ‘We’re behind you’—somehow there’s the strangest comfort in that.”

Here’s an excerpt of that Nightline segment:

Journalists HeldLaura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters cable news channel Current TV, were undergoing “intense interrogation,” with investigators poring through their notebooks, videotapes and camera for signs they were spying on the North’s military facilities, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unnamed South Korean intelligence official.

Who: Financial analyst Iain Clayton, 43; TV reporter Laura Ling, 33 ~ What: Eight-lb, two-oz baby daughter, Li Jefferson Clayton ~ Where: St. Joseph’s Providencia Hospital, Burbank, CA ~ When: Weds., June 2, 7:36 p.m. ~ Why: “Li” short for “Lisa,” for the mother’s steel-willed big sister, Lisa Ling, who mounted a withering three-month media blitz to save her little sister from a North Korean prison sentence. “Jefferson” for William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd POTUS, who flew to Pyongyang to rescue Laura and colleague Euna Lee last Aug. ~ How: a modern media miracle.

  • [UPDATE 12/07/09: Swedish Store Pulls Sale of North Korean Jeans, BBC

In the midst of a dark scenario involving underground nuclear detonations, threatening missile launches and a lot of ugly face-making, a jolly band of idealistic, enterprising and somewhat naive young Swedish advertising agency workers in their 20s fired off an intercontinental ballistic email to North Korea’s biggest garment maker. It went something like: “Please make us cool skinny jeans, and we will market and sell them to the West’s decadent fashionista.” The year was 2007.

The young Swedes didn’t really expect they would even get a response, so a few early rejections didn’t deter their optimism. Fast forward 2½ years since that first email, and we find Jacob Åström, Tor Rauden Källstigen and Jakob Ohlsson, the cofounders of NoKo Jeans, selling their North Korean-made denims Dec. 4 in Stockholm’s hip fashion store PUB and online from NoKo’s own hastily mounted Web site,

And at the same time they take the wraps of their “Made In North Korea” labeled jeans, the NoKo trio is revealing an ulterior but noble motive behind the madness of daring to do business with the Pyongyang regime of Kim Jong-il.

They don’t call it the “Hermit Kingdom” for nothing.

Noko’s founders said they had spent over a year trying to gain access to factory operators in North Korea, and struggled with poor communications and an unfamiliar approach to doing business once inside the country.

“There is a political gap, there is a mental gap, and there is an economic gap,” said Astrom. “All contacts with the country are difficult and remain so to this day.”

The idea for the project was born out of their curiosity about North Korea, which has grown increasingly isolated under Western criticism of its human rights record and nuclear ambitions. “The reason we did this was to come closer to a country that was very difficult to get into contact with,” said Astrom.

Wary of all attempts for contact by foreigners, Kim Jong-il’s government rarely allows outsiders within its borders and has virtually no trade or diplomatic relations with most Western countries. But Sweden, one of seven countries that currently have an embassy in North Korea, is an exception.

Banking that the goodwill established over the years would put the North Koreans more at ease with their proposal, the NoKo boys initially struck out badly in trying to convince North Korea’s largest textile firm to produce 1,000 or so jeans for them. First, the suspicious North Koreans steadfastly refused to produce blue denims because they equated blue jeans with the evil U.S. But weirdly, the Swedish lads found that the future partners had no problems with black jeans. Who knew?

That’s what 60 years of isolation can do, and in many ways the Noko execs still find their new manufacturers had to figure. While the the North’s textile giant completely pwned them, scoring a zinc furnace for the secretive country’s largest mining company proved to be a great help in finally reaching an agreement for their first 1,000 Noko jeans. Seems that the mining company had a nice little textile operation running on the side. They also had to come up with a pirated copy of Adobe Acrobat. No problem. Pirate Bay.

This summer, while two American journalists (Euna Lee and Laura Ling) who had blundered their way illegally into North Korean territory were cooling their heels in a Pyongyang guest house, Åström, Källstigen and Ohlsson traveled to North Korea to oversee production, to meet the workers who would produce their jeans and to check on the working conditions.

Although the Swedes found the North Koreans to be serious micro-managers, they also liked Swedish vodka.

And today, hipster fashion hounds around the world who can afford to part with $220 will be able to get their hands on NoKo Jeans’ first designs each numbered and labeled “Manuevers in the Dark,” in slim or loose fit, and, of course, only in black, Dear Leader.


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