Let My People Go

I am very concerned about Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the American journalists for Current TV who just got sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean labor camp. It’s alarming and terrible. I could easily see myself in their position. You are trying to do your job and then you get caught up in something huge and unstoppable.

What’s so messed up about this particular situation is that because they are Asian American, I worry that North Korea feels less guilty about punishing them. They wouldn’t ever have the courage to do this to white journalists, especially white male journalists. Since Lee and Ling look like their own, they feel they can treat them like their own – and in North Korea, this is not a good thing. And since Asian Americans are not as easily defined as “American” I’m afraid that these two will get lost in the shuffle. It’s the strange rootless consequence of Asian American identity played out to the worst possible conclusion. Could you imagine the same thing happening to Anthony Bourdain? He could have negotiated his way out with a bottle of Crown Royal and some Marlboro reds. If Andrew Zimmern went there to eat live octopus and was nabbed by Kim Jong Il, he’d be free before the tentacles stopped wiggling in his mouth.

But this is a serious situation. I am not sure if people see Euna Lee and Laura Ling as American, but they are just as American as the notion of freedom of speech. Let my people go!

Angry Asian Man and Feministing both have links on how you can help.

22 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. It’s all too telling by the way the North Korean court refers to the sentence: “Reform through labor”. —-How exactly are Euna and Laura supposed to be “reformed” if they were never part of the Kim worship cult in the first place??? The only thing I know about North Korean labor camps is that very few people have been sent to one and lived to tell the tale.

  2. Something very similar happened some years ago to a (male) Japanese journalist, except that he was imprisoned for two years with no trial at all! Definitely speaks to your point about how North Korea feels safer persecuting Asians even if they are citizens of democratic nations.

  3. it’s a little gross that they were merely doing their jobs (for a bunch of white american dudes in suits, no less) and this is what happens to them. i’m a bit astounded and feel strongly that their immediate supervisors/bigbossmen should be held accountable, not them. even if it IS al gore . . . I’m horrified for them. And horrified that america did not do something more severe to help them. Sheesh.

  4. What concerns me as with any number of these kind of political imprisonments is the apathy in general towards action. It’s kind of scary that people get more enthused about doing a phone vote for umpteen different derivative talent/reality/trainwreck TV shows, but signing a petition or taking two minutes to write a protest email or postcard is too much hassle or seen as pointless or ineffective. (or even more worryingly here in Europe, complete apathy over voting and then people screaming blue murder that loads of right wing nuts have grabbed seats in the parliament.)

    I think people under-estimate how much power kicking up a noise or fuss can have. Emailing campaigns can cause serious headaches for the admin in businesses or goverments, sometimes enough to make them reassess how their policies are being viewed.

    Keeping making noise! :)

  5. You are not alone. Many Americans are outraged. There must be someway to make Obama pay attention, and send Hilary to help. We all know these ladies will probably be killed for show. We need to move fast.

  6. I have similar concerns that the American government will not take the level of interest needed since these two women are classified as “Asian” American. Too often the qualifier is used as a distinction of reduction. I hadn’t thought about the pespective of N. Korea using this too in the way you describe. Certainly don’t think a white male “Euro” American would have been subjected to this treatment. I was very disappointed, sad, angry, etc. when I heard their sentencing today. I hope North Korea will follow Iran’s lead who released the American journalist after her sentencing. The one positive of North Korea being in the news so much lately is that Euna’s and Laura’s story/plight might remain in the forefront.

    I truly can’t imagine what these women and their families are experiencing.

  7. Here’s the deal, how can we stop this or help them if we’re doing worse things to innocent people in our country and abroad, in the name of democracy. ????? Not saying somethig shouldn’t be done, but if something is done let’s not stop there, let’s help the Arab Americans who are wrongly imprisoned, the African Americans and all the others all over the world, in our prison camps!!!!! This isonly the beginning !!

  8. The main thing is that they’re Americans, and our government shouldn’t (probably isn’t, but in a non-publicized diplomatic manner) let that happen to anyone (as per Jessica Ceballos’ comment) let alone it’s own citizens.

    North Korea needs to be stopped, and the more belligerently they behave, the less the PRC will protect them from nations of the world at large.

  9. Ditto what Jessica wrote; for our stance to have any strength, we must do what we require of others.

    Journalists used to have the backing of the people who hired them as they got their stories, but where is the media storm about these Asian women? A slow speed chase gets more coverage than their story, and that speaks sad volumes about the attention span and compassion of our citizens for other citizens.

    I suggest donating to Amnesty International as a proactive move to free all political prisoners worldwide.

  10. These women have been wrongfully jailed since march, America was just recently briefed…This is such a big deal, and the media has basically said nothing…It was announced Thursday that the women were going to trial, then not a single word from the media until this morning. If it weren’t for the fact that these women are somewhat connected, the story would have never gotten out. The media has determined that the political he said she said bullshit is obviously more important.

  11. “Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, said the 12-year sentence — the maximum allowed under North Korean law — may have been a reaction to recent “hard-line” threats by the U.S., including possible sanctions and putting North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

    This is really horrible.

  12. I’ll admit that I don’t watch the news that much but the big things I usually catch. So when I just heard about this story today, I thought it was because I wasn’t attentive enough but according to my mother, who watches the news everyday, said she hadn’t heard about it until recently either. How is it that something like this could be kept under raps for so long? Especially for me. Our news anchor is actually related to Ling.

    What I am trying to understand is the harshness of the punishment.

  13. It didnt get big media exposure because the families wanted it that way. they thought it might make things worse. I don’t blame them. it wasn’t until Lisa Ling got a call from her sister and the trial approached that they decided to go on a media campaign.

  14. I understand it’s a very upsetting situation and the sentence is really too harsh for that (entering to a country illegally) kind of violence of laws. My sympathy is with them.
    I also understand that North Korea is an evil country, had to be stopped from their actions that affect other nations.

    However, let’s not lost our senses. Every country has its laws and order. People cannot be treated where they come from before local courts. I don’t think N. Korea thinks them as their own, they think that N. Korea is N. Korea and it has its laws whether we, Americans, like it or not. As Americans we cannot think that we can do whatever we want and wouldn’t face the consequences. Unfortunately, entering to North Korea illegally (if they did. did they? No one really mentions if they did or not) was a big risk which Euna Lee and Laura Ling took and they were unlucky.

  15. besides as Jessica ceballos and Elaine mentioned, if only our hands were clean. Did we do anything when we learned our own government is torturing prisoners!? Let’s start cleaning our own backyard first. Before you start pointing fingers…make sure you hands are clean.

  16. Many of the “experts” on North Korea think that Ling and Lee will be sent to a less harsh labor camp. They are valuable assets to the government and you don’t want two American women to die under terrible conditions in a labor camp. They will get the Four Seasons hotel version of a North Korean concentration camp.

    I worry more about Lee than Ling. Ling’s family has roots in Taiwan and she doesn’t speak Korean. However, Lee is Korean-American with a decent understanding of the Korean language. I wonder if the North Korean Gestapo will inflict more psychological and possible physical harm upon her. It must be offensive to North Korean officials that someone of Korean heritage would be a citizen of the USA. On the other hand, they might think that Lee was brainwashed by white American imperialists. Forced to marry a white American male and God knows what else. I wonder if the North Korean propaganda hacks would attempt to free her from the American “oppressors”. I just hope the two of them are treated fairly and they will be released together very soon.

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