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June 9th, 2009
10:28 AM ET

Life inside a North Korean prison

T. Kumar of Amnesty International has studied conditions inside North Korean prisons.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International has studied conditions inside North Korean prisons.

American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea. What kind of conditions would they face in a North Korean prison? Not much is known about them. But through the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, we have satellite maps showing the layout of one prison.

T. Kumar is the advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International and he has studied the prison conditions in North Korea. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday.

John Roberts: If they were sent to one of these prisons, what kind of conditions would they encounter based on the studies you've done?

T. Kumar: We have to divide the situation into two categories. First is about the living conditions. The living conditions are extremely harsh. It's overcrowded, very little food and very little, if any, medical attention. Then every day they have to work for more than ten hours. Very hard labor starting from breaking stones to working in the mines. And very little food again during the day.

Roberts: Very high rates of death in detention among these prisoners?

Kumar: Yes. It's a combination of facts why the deaths are occurring. Number one, it's hard and forced labor. Second, it's lack of food. And unhygienic environment…There is no medical attention at all in many cases. So combined of all of these issues, [there is a] very large number of people who die in these [prisons].

Roberts: But in terms of putting together this report and the conditions inside the prisons, the type of labor these people are being forced to endure, the type of conditions that they are being forced to endure, under their handlers, how did you find all of this information out?

Kumar: We get information through former inmates who flee to China as refugees. And through them, as well as other sources such as former guards [who] at times tell us what's happening. This we did not compile over a year or two. We have been investigating it for the last couple of years and found out all of this inside information. By the way, this is not the full information. Full information could be much worse.

Roberts: You know, at the same time that Laura Ling and Euna Lee were put on trial, there was the whole issue over North Korea’s nukes and the missile tests. The U.S. is talking very tough on that front, the military front, but talking very diplomatically here about the two journalists who have been sentenced.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “We view these as entirely separate matters. We think the imprisonment trial and sentencing of Laura and Euna should be viewed as a humanitarian matter. We hope that the North Koreans will grant clemency and deport them.”

Roberts: So the secretary of state and the administration at large are trying to separate these issues and talking very diplomatically about the two journalists. Do you think North Korea will see these as separate issues? Or do you think they're going to try to leverage it to the best of their ability?

Kumar: Yeah, Amnesty International supports the secretary of state's decision. But definitely North Korea is not going to take that position. The timing of their arrest and imprisonment, and the sentencing of 12 years, suggests that they are using this as a pawn in the whole bigger game of nuclear standoff with the United States.

Roberts: And do you think they will ever send Laura and Euna to one of these prisons? If you're a secretive nation and want to keep things hidden, it would seem the last thing you would want to do is send two American journalists to one of these prisons with the thought in the back of your mind that one day they might be released and tell the world what goes on there.

Kumar: We can't rule out anything. Amnesty International always warned the international community not to be complacent on these issues. Since the North Korean government has gone to the extent of sentencing them, we should expect the worst. Expecting it not to happen – it's going to be a disservice to the families as well as to these two journalists. The U.S. also can ask International Committee of the Red Cross, as a first step, to meet with them to see how they are doing. That's something the U.S. can do now.


Filed under: North Korea
soundoff (622 Responses)
  1. Biff

    They knew the consequences,,its sad but tuff luck. NK is still at war , in their minds, with the U.S. so these are prisoners of war...imagine a U.S. reporting in Munich during WW2, they would be captured...these reporters are idiots...and shouldn't have gone there..sorry but true...

    June 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  2. Love The Great White North Eh?

    Note to Amercians:

    If you plan to go to countries like North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti, etc.....your life is in great danger, and you are really rollling the dice. What a concept.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  3. Jeff

    China owns or holds the paper on the U.S. North Korea is its favorite cousin so to speak so there is no way the U.S. is going to take action without China's backing.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  4. nyapada

    Hi.North korean you should no the game of ,HAKUNA MATATA or OGOPA

    June 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  5. Sam

    They weren't in North Korea, they were reporting a story about a northkorean defecting to China when they got pulled over the border into North Korea by soldiers.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  6. JohnNYC

    @Jeff

    what do you mean "you people"

    just kidding

    Really I agree with you, this string of posts makes me wonder what high horse we Americans think we're on, I can only hope that these posts aren't representative of all Americans.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  7. Randall

    these were journalists who thought they were above the law. Not every nation views freedom of the press the way that the United States does, and to use the State Department to intervene on behalf of JOURNALISTS when there are soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors that are in harms way not by their choice that do not get as much attention as these two JOURNALISTS! Maybe more of them should suffer the same fate– why does the government spend its clout on thigs that make the world a better place not the fate of these two who clearly did as they were told not to.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  8. Ivey

    I pray for their safe return to the US. Now with that said, we should use the hard labor prisons here in the US for the hardest of criminals. Perhaps then there wouldn't be repeat crimes and misuse of tax dollars.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  9. June

    The USA not as strong now, as it was. No money, no power.
    To do what Ben recommend, would be extremely dangerous.
    What, if the USA would be the next one, who will be NUKED ?
    This country is not the same anymore.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  10. PIOTR LEWANDOWSKI

    STALIN WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD. GULAG RELOADED..............

    June 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  11. Pat

    Payback is not so easy. They have a standing army that can take the South Korean capital in hours. They can use artillery from the DMZ and level Seoul. We have nothing in the region that can stop them.

    Our assets are tied up in Iraq.

    We can knock out their nuke plant and their small supply of nukes with air power but air power can't stop a million man standing army already deployed and ready.

    Again, we find ourselves chewing out fingernails and negotiating with no strength. And telling everyone in the world we are sorry we have not been the nice guy.

    It won't get any better in the future with the current regime – but what the heck – your neighbor who drives a bus – won't get his $500,000 home mortgage forclosed.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  12. Mark

    If those women are real journalists, I would agree that they're kind of stupid. It is going to cost us an arm and the leg to get them out. But if they are not journalists, but spies... hmmm. They are heroes then...

    June 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  13. TD

    I read all these comments and here are my thoughts... isn't it great that we live in the USA and can all speak our minds. It doesn't matter whether others agree or not. Stand on a soap box or kick someone off. Freedom is a great thing.

    Whether the women were wrong or not, the facts remain that they have both been given a long, harsh sentence. My thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  14. kee

    Neither I mean to be mean but those 2 reporters not only called upon this tragedy for themselves but provided North Korea with valuable pawns in their nuclear game, and the US with a serious strategic predicament. Al Gore, who is the ultimate enabler for them, must apologize for that to Americans. But instead he is planning a trip to N. Korea seizing the opportunity to stay in the limelight. I think his valuable time would be better spent by creating another Internet and global warming.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm |
  15. Zippy One

    There is a common assumption in many of these comments that the two reporters were captured on NK soil. I have not seen any credible evidence that this is true. Indeed, early reports stated that they were filming at the border (on the river). Given that NK has admitted to kidnapping dozens (if not hundreds) of Japanese and South Korean's (to train spies, run their -I kid you not- film industry, etc), it does not strain credibility to believe that these reporters were illegally taken from Chinese soil.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  16. ricky

    Suzanna Lee- its not that simple to just blow up everyone and everything. First, we have morals. There are alot of people who are in North Korea and have nothing to do with their dictator, so in turn we would kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. Second, if we would nuke them, their allies would get mad and in turn try and retaliate, as well as the rest of the world hating us (which they already do) because we americans (people llike you) think we can do anything.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Kristen

    Hey Suzanne... you must be naive to think that we are the most powerful. This is what we are told. Have you been to any other countries to see how large and powerful their military forces are? We used to be the most powerful. But there have been other countries that now can overpower us. Besides the fact that we owe billions of dollars to other countries. Last time I checked, those who don't owe money to others are more powerful. And what a genius you are to say "let's use the nukes". Just because a country's government is bad, does not mean that the citizens are. Do you know what the other countries think of us? They see us as evil, so should we be nuked?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  18. Greg

    For all of you nitwits saying Gitmo was not as bad as the N Korea jails, turn off Fox News for a moment and think. WE are not N Korea. The US should set the example for humanitarianism. You are right that Gitmo was nothing compared to N Korea jails. But that is how it should be, right? They are ruled by a psychotic megalomaniac. We are not. Wow. ... As far as nuking the country. Why would we drop a bomb and kill millions of innocent people that have ZERO ability to change their government. It isn't as if Kim Jong was elected and is therefore a representative of the people there.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  19. FredericK C Moore

    Lets not forget that the two journalists are human beings, yes they took a risk , yes they should have known the consequences but should American turn its back on them. What if it was one of your own.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  20. annie

    If these 2 women did not actually cross the border into North Korea then I feel badly for them and hope for their quick release. If they did cross the border then it's their own fault and I categorize them with all the other gonzo journalists who go to stupid lengths for a story, breaking laws in the process. Perhaps the US should be as diligent in protecting our borders (under fair laws and with no commie prison camps, obviously). For all those melodramatic types who are worrying about and "praying" for these women, believe me, with the book and movie deals coming their way when they get home, they don't need your prayers. Just saying it like it is.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  21. Brian

    Why cant us prisons be this way. These people did worng and bad things treat them like animals. We treat them better than some people that never caused trouble. They get 3 good meals a day , A bed to sleep in, and heat in winter and air in summer. We need to treat our prisoners like North Korea!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  22. Jason

    I am with Russ on this one, no remorse at all. Journalists do something dangerous and stupid then get caught and cry about it. Frankly they are lucky to be alive they could have simply been shot on the spot.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  23. Steve NY

    There are 2 sides to this story.
    1) The journalists are stupid to go into a country like North Korea. The jounalists any more are pushy, they think they can control not only this country (USA) but North Korea also.
    So they knew what they were getting themselves into. We probably should punish some of the whacky/pushy journalists here also in this country. There are a lot of them that are anti- American.

    2) The second side of the story is why are we playing footsie with the North Korerans? We always are kissing their ass and it's not getting us any place. This was started by our great president Bill Clinton. The best thing to do is either starve them out or nuke them bofrore they nuke us. End of story.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  24. paco

    it seems to me they put themselves in that situation every one that i know of are quite familiar about the almost medevial mentally in north korea .they should have used better judgement I'm sorry to say they have no else to blame but themslves .I do hope somthing can be done to get them release.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  25. paul

    I say we make a deal for the women and once they are back inside the country, we nuke north korea and just obliterate it.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  26. JB

    Our prisons system should be like theirs when it comes to labor but with more food, medical care, writing and receiving mail, decent living areas with adequate sanitation, earned visitations, and nothing more period. As far as the two journalists goes they knew they were across the border illegally. There are plenty of maps now days that shows you the boundaries of state lines, and will show you the name of the first town in your path that you will come to when crossing the boundary. Nobody is above the law rather here in the USA or abroad. Life is all about choices and consequences and they chosed to cross over illegally.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  27. Dan

    C'mon people. These were journalists that took a chance and NKorea saw an opportunity to use these women against the outside world for leverage. Wrong place wrong time. If they are lucky the US will barter for them, NKorea will set them free and NKorea will get food, grain or a lesser stance on the ongoing nuke issue. It's not like this is the first time this has happened in the world. I am sure these women knew exactly what they were doing and the chances they would be caught. Do I feel sorry from them. No. I feel worse for their family and maybe they should have thought about the effects of them being caught would have been on people close to them.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  28. Linda

    I am sure the reporters thought that if the world really knew what was happening inside NK the world would help the people of NK like we came to the aide of the people of Iraq. And the world would thank of the same way. I guess they thought the risk was worth the rewards.
    I mean afterall the world is so grateful for all the good the USA has done to help the poor and suffering the world over. I mean just look at the accolades we received for Vietnam.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  29. laurence

    Kevin, I love your comment

    June 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  30. A. Jerk

    Hey –

    Time to reunite South and North Korea!

    Get rid of this dictatorship – return these two hostages.

    Freedom to the poeple of North Korea.

    Do it now!

    June 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  31. Viola

    Ok, guys, calm down. Don't be harsh with one another. At this point, we can't use force, it will backfire. There is a saying, "treat your enemies with kindness?" Be diplomatic. Pray for the two women.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  32. Kron

    ........ I'd love to read something that wasn't completely thoughtless. Anyone? Anyone at all...

    June 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  33. Larry

    Ben, the majority of hte world and amnesty international says its inhumane for the US to execute people. Yet we still do it. Cant expect the rest of the world to really care what amnesty thinks if we dont do it in this country. Cant have it both ways.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  34. Realistic

    I wonder if those in here who say libs"Whine" about Gitmo would like to spend a night at Gitmo. I bet a night of waterboarding would turn their whining into crying like a bunch of ****. Its easy to judge libs because some might want to make sure our government is not above the law.
    Many people want Gitmo closed but more want those responsible for 9-11 or just being a terrorist brought to justice. And when convicted, they should be hung, shot or any other form of the death penalty will do for many.
    The idea of closing Gitmo is not about protecting terrorist but making sure they get a fair trial before they are sentenced to death.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  35. Tom

    Oh yeah, good idea. Let's go in there and overthrow their oppressive regime. It worked so well in Iraq.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  36. Dennis

    If they were kidnapped on Chinese soil, then they deserve to be set free. If they were captured on North Korean soil. Well, they deserve what they are getting right now; however, I do hope that they will be set free before they are sent to prison.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  37. Mark

    Hmmmm,..interesting. Two women (supposedly) sneak into a country known for their lack of civil rights and freedom, are arrested and we get all upset. While at the same time, people sneak into this country, known for freedom and civil rights,..and we want them arrested. Sorry people,..which way do you want it?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  38. Eddie

    Quote from Tom Wittmann, above:

    “Please do not call these women “American”. They are Korean with an US passport, continuimg to be active in Korean politics…”

    Mr. White Wittmann, you are an ignorant racist. First of all, get your facts straight. Laura Ling is a Chinese-American who was born in California. Just because they are of Asian descent does not make them any less American than you.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  39. Kathy

    Looks like alot of people think North Korea should be nuked and that would be it.

    There would be one slight problem to that. China backs North Korea.

    Are the Americans ready to take the Chinese on? How about the Russians? They too stick with the North Koreans.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  40. RG

    How to change North Korea: Gather a team of the best hackers in the free world to attack government control computer systems, bomb the country with broadband, and drop iphones from the sky.

    Give the people access to information from the outside world and stand back while we watch an almost-elegant overthrow of the tyrants in control.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  41. Eddie

    Quote from Tom Wittmann, above:

    "Please do not call these women “American”. They are Korean with an US passport, continuimg to be active in Korean politics..."

    Mr. White Wittmann, you are an ignorant racist. First of all, get your facts straight. Laura Ling is a Chinese-American who was born in California. Just because they are of Asian descent does not make them any less American than you. It is stupid, white Americans like yourself that degrade the United States' reputation. I'm surprised you haven't jumped off a bridge yet considering that Obama got elected as President.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  42. Opinionated

    I'm curious as to whether they underwent an"enhanced interrogation" process and how the average American feels about the possibility of such.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  43. abc

    You want to help a nation by dropping a nuclear bomb and ravaging it?

    I'm glad you're not a politcian. How about you stick to making dumb comments...

    Suzanne Lee June 9th, 2009 12:43 pm ET

    Why do we waste money builing nuclear bombs if we aren’t going to use them? So many people need to be nuked these days. I’m so tired of all the sickness in this world, we’re the most powerful country with the most powerful military in the world and we’re scared to step on the toes of psychotic dictators…ridiculous.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  44. Larry

    I feel for them, because they are going to have 12 years of hell...but you cant expect to get the same freedoms (speech, press, etc.) that you get in the US just because you are from the US. They snuck into North Korea, and now they have to pay the price for being caught. There is no difference between them sneaking into North Korea compared to illegal aliens sneaking across the Rio Grande. They had no right to be where they were and we shouldnt waste tax dollars trying to free them.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  45. Thomas Canada

    Wow. Lots of folks calling for nuke strikes on N.K.

    Bit extreme, don't you think? Nuke a nation that is holding two reporters - that snuck in?

    And aside from a lot of blah blah blah from Dear Leader et al, what has N.K. really done to deserve a nuclear whack-job? OK, aside from them grabbing (and still holding) the US Navy ship Pueblo. Bet the USN is still fuming over that little job.

    Seriously, the two reporters should be deported. And, c'mon: N.K. should NOT be nuked. That would not be too much different than nuking Hungary, say, or Poland 20 years ago.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  46. tom ferrante

    I hope all the libs out there realize they are idiots. Keep worrying about Gitmo. Wake up and realize how the world treats prisoners. Americans treat our captives like a country club.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  47. Me

    No sympathy whatsoever for these two jounalists. They illegally crossed one of the most heavily armed borders in the world and went into a country ruled by an extreme militaristic dictatorship at a time when political tensions are out of control. What do you expect? Do they understand the new level of complexity they have added to relations between the two countries?

    I'm a US Citizen (born and bred) that grew up overseas and observed the laws in the countries where we lived. No jail time for me. Funny how that works no?

    Being an American and a reporter (which is not a protected class) does not/should not preclude these two individuals from facing the consequences of their actions if they break the laws of a foreign country.

    Another good example... I cannot believe we intervened when that douchebag Michael Fay was sentenced to caning in Singapore for vandalism. Did you know that there was a Hong Kong Chinese kid involved as well that got the full number of strikes but Micheal didn't because the US Government cried foul?

    I can understand the government intervening if a foreign government is doing something unjust or illegal by international laws. This isn't the situation.

    I'm sorry they will face the hardships of prison life, but I cannot believe that they were naive enough to believe they would not have to face the consequences of their actions if they were caught.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  48. SC Hugh

    While I don't wish to see these two young ladies spend the next 12 years of their life in a North Korean prison, but they should have had some idea what would happen if they got caught, or perhaps they thought they would just get deported,, very sad situation for them and their familes.

    In reference to the comments by Russ, sorry to hear about your friends accident, but do you realize how far "off base" you are with your comment. First of all, who has to "sneak" into a funeral in the United States ??

    Suzanne Lee, do you have any idea what your saying, I for one am not ready to "nuke" North Korea or any other country. I agree we are one of the strongest countries in the word, and I guess it's easy to suggest we send troops into combat, as long as your not the one putting your life on the line. I suggest you enlist, women are serving in combat now and when you get home, you might have a slightly different opinion about the glory of war .From first hand experience, it's not a trip to the mall.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  49. Ben

    This is not an issue of if they should or should not have been there. These are people who are trying to do their job who are being accused of spying on North Korea. Now they are going to be held in a prison that every country in the world (and even Amnesty International) says is inhumane. I say that this case should be put up in an international court to see if the sentance stands.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  50. mia

    Journalists that put themselves in harms way for the sake of journalism really need to ask themselves, is it really worth it? If they have a spouse and/or children or child, shouldn't they be more cautious about what assignment they take on? These women have to accept the consequences, hopefully the US can assist them but at the end it will cost the tax payers more of their hard earned money to bail out these journalist in North Korea. How responsible is that?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  51. Stop It

    In the interest of not appearing to be 10 years old or a chararter in the Dilbertt comic strip: turn the all caps function off. It's embarrasing to you and to the state of internet literacy as a whole. Would you like me to scream every word if it were a face to face conversation? No. Stop it.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  52. Kris

    I wouldn't assume they had actually crossed the border. North Korea has been known to blur the line or even drag people across the border in the past. Read about the 1976 tree trimming incident to get a taste of what dealing with North Korean can be like. I'm sure if they were anywhere near the border the North Koreans saw an excuse to detain them.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  53. Gerbil

    Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. I hope no one here ever finds themselves in over their heads....

    June 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  54. Andy

    North Korea is running a bunch of death camps. While we sit over here in our Ivory Towers (trying to meet in the middle, giving diplomacy a chance, apologizing to the world), people are dying daily at the hands of a monster. But we don't want confict or aggression. Good for US!

    One day, all of us, Obambi included, will be held accountable for ignoring the suffering of so many for so long. We don't need to bomb them, but we do need to cut aid, isolate and force them (Dear leader and his whackos) to capitulate. But as long as our BMW is running, why get our hands dirty.....Justice will come....to Dear Leader AND the Neville Chamberlains of the West who guarantee his existence.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  55. Bubba

    Paul in NYC would obviously have us go over to North Korea and have a love-in, I will chip for your ticket Paul!

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  56. Bruce McLaughlin

    North Korea needs a wake up call. If I were president I would give them 24 hrs to hand over the reporters or else. The "else" is I would destroy all of their nuke facilities with massive missle strikes from submarines. Nobody would care about North Korea's nuke capabilities being destroyed.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  57. Thomas

    Thanks Jeff.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  58. Nando

    @ Suzanne:
    We can't just get fired up and lay waste to countries. The reason we and many other nations have nuclear capability is for defense reasons mostly, reasons that spanned back to the Cold War arms race. US/Russia knew that we cannot just bomb everyone, but we could definately match fire with fire as a means of a scare tactic. Now it's changed to defense or for some countries, a bargaining tool. If one country that abides by Geneva Convention standards goes haywire and drops a nuke, imagine the implications of a country that DOESN'T abide by it and they strike back, on American soil. As for the bargaining tool argument, look no further than North Korea...

    @ the rest:
    I don't know how you can rush to such a conclusion. To me it's more of a double edged sword. I don't really -know- if their intentions were to cross the China/NK border, but if they were, they should of known the consequences of capture. People tend to forget that the NK/ROKs are still at war. Was it a bit illogical and ignorant, even on accident? Yes. But at the same time, I would like to support the fact that if their cause was to bring light on something important, such as the treatment of their people, then I also have to be sympathetic. That's the dangers of journalism. Do any of you ever say the same thing when other journalists stick their neck out in combat areas in places such as Iraq or Afghanistan? The journalists are human, and as the addage goes, "humans make mistakes". Never the less, they deserve some sympathy and prayer.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  59. Cathy

    @ Tom Wittmann
    "Please do not call these women “American”. They are Korean with an US passport".
    One of the journalists isn't even Korean by ethnicity. You're unbelievable. Maybe you should think before posting a comment.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  60. Blair

    Whoever said " I would expect better reporting from CNN" please.. since when has CNN been thorough and fully open with their reporting?

    that aside.. The journalists knew they were in the country illegally.. and they should be punished within the countries law. No external source should step in to over ride the law of the country. If you dont agree with a country's laws... dont goto that country.
    end of story really.

    The fact remains North Korea is brutal on the humanitarian front.. and a mouse screaming like an elephant when it comes to national policies..

    North Korea will eventually act in a descructive manner .. because eventually they will litterally have nothing to lose.

    the term "Something's gotta give" comes to mind.. and depends which side gives first.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  61. Magdor

    I think we can all agree that Kim Jong Il is crazy. However many of you are failing to realize, the North Korean people are suffering immensely under this dictator's rule. Nuking North Korea is not the answer. For all you idiots out there, how would you feel if the rest of the world said nuke America to punish that idiot Bush. Secondly, why aren't Iraq war/Bush supporters screaming, "Free North Korea"? Because you can't think for yourselves? That's what I thought.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  62. Bubba

    We should do to the same to Kim Jong that we did to Admiral Yamamoto.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  63. erin

    CNN web people: i think it's time to allow the 4 comments shown on the front article page to update with most recent comments like most websites do.

    otherwise we'll all just keep commenting on those first 4 comments...not very conducive to good dialog, no?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  64. frank

    we have more nukes than every other country combined. what gives us the right to have so many and then tell other countries they can't even explore the idea of developing them? kinde of hypocritical, don't ya think? that being said, n. korea is a joke. did you see kim jong il in team america? he's so ronery. it's kind of sirry, but not rearry.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  65. Don

    Doesn't anyone know the difference between remorse and empathy??

    June 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm |
  66. Jeff

    Hey, you go to another country, you are there under their rules, you don't follow the rules then you get punished by their system.

    I don't like to see anyone endure what awaits these two but they broke the rules of their host and they knew they were doing it. Knowing the consequences or not makes no difference, they knew it was wrong. I have NEVER seen or heard 'ignorance of the law or the associated penalties' used as an acceptable defense in any court.

    I'd be singing a different tune if they were framed but such does not appear to be the case here.

    I am an American and proud to be one. I'm also very much right wing.

    I am sick and tired to people going to other countries and acting any way they want to, expecting the U.S. Government to get them out of it. Doing anything with the thought that they are something special. If someone comes here to the U.S. I expect them to abide by our laws and customs. If I were to travel abroad I would do my best to honor their laws and customs.

    This more than anything earns us the "ugly american" lable.

    I think Suzanne has a point...

    June 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  67. Jery

    Russ that is an ignorant statement. Your friends funeral has nothing to do with this. Are you saying that the 2 reporters who snuck into your friends funeral deserve 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison? Do us all a favor and don't waste your time or ares by typing in ignorant babble into the comments section of serious issues.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  68. CVF

    We should start the proceedure on North Korea as we did Iraq and then do the same with Iran. The axis of evil needs to be neutralized.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  69. Logan Reese

    It's a sad story, but I do believe that North Korea has had this reputation of paranoia in the beginning with reporters and those who are not allowing themselves to be tread upon.

    My prayers for the reporters and their families.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  70. erin

    russ, you rule. i don't think i've ever seen anyone critique their former comment and say they were wrong on a comment board (all without being abusive back to people who denounced you). if only we were all so fair-minded...

    what amazes me reading these comments is that we on one hand condemn north korea and say we should nuke them, but then we simultaneously BELIEVE them that the arrests and sentencing are legit!

    why are we not remembering what the journalists were researching in china–do you really think that the n.korean government (notorious for suppressing any kind of news not government-produced) would not want to apprehend them for that? isn't this just typical dear leader action?

    do we really think that they were arrested and sentenced by the government merely for trying to 'sneak into the country' when their story is on people who ESCAPED THE COUNTRY? logic, people, logic.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  71. Nunya

    What kind of answers are you expecting to read from a site that propogates lies and half-truths?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  72. ufisher

    Paul>>>>June 9th, 2009 1:30 pm ET

    >>>Today is apparently the redneck-retard day on the CNN comment >>>section.

    and dang, I thought this was the Fox Network site, my bad 😉

    June 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  73. Bizzo

    I see the there are sissies here that support Gitmo being closed. I bet they also think that going to NY for a show and dinner was a great idea too.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  74. john

    There should be a lack of sympahty on this blog for the simple fact that these two journalists were where they were not supposed to be when they were not supposed to be there. Now, that being said, we still live in a country that should not allow its citizens to be unfairly punished. 12 years hard labor in a korean prison camp might not be the appropriate course of action. The U.S would not hand down such a punishment and should not stand for N. Korea doing the same. The current course of action being taken by the U.S. should be a little more than a "please return these women to their home" it should be more along the lines of "do it and do it now".

    June 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  75. ufisher

    Ashok: They surely will get the fame, and I suspect they will be released within 6 months, I hope it happens much sooner. Also have a feeling that IF they did stray into NK, it was not done intentionally. I doubt that they even did cross the border and a cameraman was with them, how did he get away so easily? More then likely they were snatched from China, just like the North Korean's use to do when they stole citizens from Japan years ago.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  76. Paul NYC

    Today is apparently the redneck-retard day on the CNN comment section.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  77. Ben

    Our country will do nothing to help these women. We are too PC correct. We will not bomb them either as that would be against PC correctness. I supported Obama and still have confidence in him but our congress and especially Polosi call the shots and tie his hands. My heart goes out to these reporters but they did choose to put themselves in harm's way. Yes I wish Teddy Roosevelt was still alive and President with his "Speak softly but carry a big Stick". All of you should know by now America never receives support from our suppossed allies unless they are in trouble. Then it is "HELP US AMERICA!". We are on our own gang as usual. Personally I say "NUKE EM TILL THEY GLOW GREEN!". Then you can see them in the dark to finish the job.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  78. Il Dong

    I hope they get 12 more for bad behavior, if they last that long.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  79. adam

    I say stop North Korea now before it is too late. Get the NATO to go after them with so much force to finish this game for good. We did it with Iraq and we should do the same with Iran and North Korea.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  80. David

    Regarding guilt in this matter (or any other pronouncement), I would not take the word of this particular government as gospel. And these journalists knew the score up there – they were reporting around it. Even if the chargers were true, their sanctions would still (and do) terribly outweigh the sin. For this and larger reasons, regime change is needed. The US can no longer effect or afford it. I wonder if Kim Jong-un offers any hope. Barring that, we need to leave it to our own leaders' better judgments.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  81. Preston

    I agree with some of you and then I don't. I don' understand us as americans, would defend our own border with the ferocity of a mother lion. Is it wrong that North Korea would want to protect their borders with the same ferocity?

    I really feel for those 2 women, but as reporters they went out on a limb to get a story knowing what the consequences would be if that limb snapped. Every country in this world has the right to dictate their own rules and regulations. In the US, if a person obtains entry into the country illegally we deport them, but however if you decide to sneak into a communist country, that currently is under numerous sanctions and embargos by the US obviously they will not give you a slap on the wrist and let you go.

    Yes the punishment does not fit the crime, by an american standard, but apparently if does fit the crime by a Korean standard. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  82. Mike

    China provides 75% imports into N. Korea , If China really wanted to stop N. Korea's nuclear program don't you think they would/could whichever. Now China owns alot of our national debt somewhere around 1 trillion dollars of it. So as far as us having the most powerful military its only cause China has supported us with the funding to do so. Whether directly or indirectly... Now if it was a thrid world country the US would be all over this nuclear testing and such but its not , Say we do goto war with N. Korea and by "War" its actually going to be a war not something like we've seen over the last 30 years invading non military countries. Most of the death's in this war won't be because of "Our" own friendly fire killing friendly troops like the war in the present.

    With the war brings more debt which in turn will weaken the US and make us vulnerable , which maybe some smaller nation are waiting for to wage war on us back. As stated above "China" doesn't really appear to want to stop N. Korea and could you imagine a war against China? China holds most of the worlds population , well anyway you see where its leading. The US is to spineless to actually engage war with N. Korea , that's why thier trying to starve N. Korea into submission.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  83. Anonymous

    It is so easy for all of us to sit here in our warm houses with our nice expensive laptops and tell stressed out, tired, US leaders what they should be doing. This world needs prayer, love, and peace. Give a lot of our leaders like our president, vice, and others the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best that they can. If you think you could do better, then go to school and work your way up to become the president yourself, instead of pointing fingers with your high school/college basic civics and economics education. Just think about both sides.....that's all im sayin.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  84. Samson

    The above (below? I don't know how it will be displayed) are ridiculous. Nuclear bombs won't solve the situation. Nuclear bombs are horrific – the fact that one might want to use them is psychotic. It's not our job to invade other countries or destroy a nation because we don't like them. If N. Korea gets the bomb then we will have to act for our protection. It is not, however, an easy situation. Luckily, it is unlikely N. Korea will be able to produce weapons as effective as our own.

    Using the fact that some prisons are worse than others as an excuse for a prison which is outside of the law is moral relativism. I guess I should be able to kill a few people because others have killed hundreds?

    This is about human rights. I sincerely hope the American journalists get released, and that N. Korea's dictatorship falls apart in the near future. But that impetus should could from within; our duty is to protect human rights as much as possible, and enforce an ethical boundary through ethical means.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  85. jason

    Don't you people who are saying they got what they were looking for realize that they weren't even in N. Korea at the time of said arrest?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  86. Ken in NC

    @ Suzanne Lee
    _____________________________________________________
    We use our Nuclear weapons and then China and Russia, who are allies of North Korea use their weapons and the world become a Nuclear dessert because we detonate enough nuclears on this planet for the radiation to kill the remaining people that are not killed in the blast. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to a Nuclear war.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  87. Phil Bhudri

    We got to engage the North Koreans at the highest level, stop the politicking and engage at the President to President level.
    We also need to respect the fact that NK is a soverign state communist or not.
    Finally, stop the smoke and mirrors what were these two really doing there.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  88. John

    Guantanamo Bay is not a disgrace by any means. Maybe we should let terrorists roam around free to kill as they see fit. Thier is a lot of ignorance in this country about was goes on in the rest of the world. No terrorist ever cared about the people they killed in this worl. As far as the two journalist go. They knew risk of what they were doing. Does the fact they are journalist make them imune from the laws of any country?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  89. James

    Russ, I knew a guy that was in an accident and died... He was drunk and deserved it. By your logic I can assume that your friends deserved to die in that accident because I knew someone who did. Kevin, those liberals that are whining are upset because we are supposed to have higher standards than are held at slave labor camps. I can't believe how small a box you guys can't seem think out of is.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  90. coleman

    where is my comment, cnn?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  91. Katarina

    If you have reached that level of selfishness, to the point of being uncaring of these women's plight, you're much stupider (and much lower) than these two reporters. These journalists were exposing the plight of trafficked North Korean women – risking their own lives to shed light on horrific suffering. It's people like Laura Ling and Euna Lee who make a real difference in the world, regardless of the cost, while slackers like you live for self-protection and comfort. Wake up and stop calling the courageous "stupid."

    June 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  92. Richard

    I feel the sentence is too long but lets not forget they got a trial even if it was secretive. We keep people in gitmo for 7 or more years with no trial. If we are going to criticize North Korea lets look a little harder at our own practices.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  93. notstupid

    russ. – did the reporters who snuck into your best friend's wedding get 12 years of hard labor in a concentration camp? i doubt it...so how can you even compare those cases, unless you're saying that anyone who trespasses deserves 12 years of hard labor...but that would be ridiculous don't you think?

    suzanne – you need to read up on history and politics in general...and i don't have time to explain all that to you...but let me ask you this..what would happen if the US started attacking other countries with nuclear weapons AT A TIME when other countries also have nuclear capabilities? most likely answer = a whole bunch of warring nations would use nuclear weapons against each other and basically destroy the earth for the rest of us (wait, did you think it was a video game where we pushed the red button first and our enemies can't do anything against us?) – still think you have a good idea?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  94. coleman

    RUSS:

    You are a hateful and extremely mean person who does NOT fit into the scheme of "humanity" in general.

    Too bad about the funeral, but what you are stating is NO COMPARISON TO 12 YEARS OF HARD LABOR IN A NORTH KOREAN LABOR CAMP.

    Russ, YOU HAVE NO SHAME AND IT SHOULD BE YOU WHO HAS TO SPEND 12 YEARS IN A LABOR CAMP, NOT THESE TWO YOUNG WOMEN.
    HOW DARE YOU?????

    June 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  95. Bill

    Tough for the ladies, but they lack a bit of grey matter for crossing into North Korea in the first place. Pretty dumb!

    June 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  96. PWN3D

    You do the crime, you do the time. They were fully aware what they were getting into. No risk, no rewards.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  97. Bill

    The world is ripe for WW3. There is no such thing as God, just greedy, selfish, and paranoid people.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  98. David

    How many idiots are there in this country??!! Suzanne, you're forgetting that if we nuke North Korea, we will kill thousands and thousands of innocent men, women, children. give me a break! You act as if North Korea consists of one dictator and nobody else. You think the people there are happy about their situation? What if someone wanted to rob a store near your house and decided to blow up the entire neighborhood to do it and kill everyone in the process? Crazy!

    And whining about Gitmo, you're right, Kevin, we shouldn't whine, because our prisons are JUST AS BAD as the ones in North Korea – OH WAIT! I FORGOT! We give our prisoners free health care while the rest of America's citizens can't afford a dentist!

    I'm very glad certain people in this country are not running the government; otherwise we would have been destroyed a long time ago. If we nuked everyone we disagreed with there'd be nobody left. If, as we have at Gitmo, we treat anyone we arrest like animlas and torture them (some of whom may be innocent), then I would say N. Korea is only doing the same thing we do.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  99. Kaye

    A good reminder that when you're in a foreign country you are at the mercy of their laws, not ours. Every action has a consequence and you really have to think before you act.

    June 9, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  100. Kathy Desiderio

    russ and Suzanne and Martini – wow – what a discredit you are to the human race. These journalists weren't 'sneaking in' like paparazzi to a celebrity event – they were trying to cover the crimes against humanity committed by NK. And to drop a nuclear bomb? It's not like you'd just drop one – and then somebody else would fire back and then it's holocaust time. Where do you get your thoughts? The $.99 store?

    June 9, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
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