17 March 2009, North Korea detained two American journalists (Korean American Euna Lea and Chinese American Laura Ling) along the China/North Korea border and charged them with illegally entering the country. They had been doing a story about the trafficking of women.
Whether they actually entered North Korea is disputed. Some say they might have. Others, such as “Reporters without Borders” claim North Korean border guards crossed into Chinese territory to detain them.
On June 4, the two were convicted of “hostile acts” via a sham trial. North Korea apparently thought that these reporters were out to make their country look bad, so decided to throw them in jail. (Bush/Obama State Secrets anyone?) They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. North Korea’s “hard labor” camps are attrocious violations of human rights.
The US has no diplomatic relations with North Korea due to North Korea’s nuclear program. This means that the US has little way to negotiate for the release of these two American citizens.
4 August, former president Bill Clinton made an unannounced trip to Pyongyang. The US government said that it was not an “official” visit. Transportation was via a private jet provided by Stephen Bing, a real estate heir, rather than any US government office.
5 August, the North Korean state news reported that Mr. Clinton “expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK” and that Kim Jong-il had issued a pardon.
Hillary Clinton denied that Bill had issued any apology to North Korea. Given North Korea’s state news is little more than a propaganda machine for the government, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they reported that the US groveled at Kim Jong-il’s feet and annointed him ruler of the world.
North Korea released the two journalists and they returned to the United States with Bill Clinton via private jet.
What’s somewhat interesting is the way the right wing is trying to smear Obama and Clinton and the left in general for successfully obtaining the release of two Americans wrongly convicted in an evil country.
Apparently, some on the right have latched onto North Korea’s state propaganda version of the incident, and say Clinton showed unbelievable weakness and cowardice by “apologizing” to North Korea, and that his actions reflected poorly on Obama and the US in general.
Where were these self-proclaimed do-gooders hiding since March when these journalists were thrown in prison?
Apparently, they believe the best and only way to deal with a rogue nation with a crazy despot dictator is to bomb it into submission. I’m trying to imagine former president George Bush Jr going to Pyongyang and trying to get these Americans released. He probably would have started a war and gotten a bunch of people killed, including himself.