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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. Kevin

    Well, lets think about the whole nuclear option here. Are we the only country with nukes?? NO!!! Ever heard of mutually assured destruction?? We use it... then they use it. Get it?? Can you imagine waking up and learning that Hawaii or Alaska was nuked by N. Korea. Their missiles can reach those places by the way.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  2. Mary

    Soldiers were raping prisoners in Gitmo – nobody deserves to be treated like animals. We're Americans, we're better than that.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  3. James

    How could this sentence be handed down? Didn't the North Koreans listen to Obama's recent sermon? We're a softer gentler nation now! Golly gee whiz, can't we all just get along and play in the same sandbox? Wake up folks, while it might be comfortable to continue to sit on the sidelines doing nothing, this NK nutcase is building up a nuclear weapons arsenal that will threaten the lives of millions.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  4. rjn

    I say we exchange the reporters for Hillary and Nancy Pelosi that will teach North Korea what torcher really is!!!!

    Let's toss in Al Gore too so he can bore them to death!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  5. Alan

    Guess what? Big mistake not to attack North Korea 15 years ago. Now they have a crude nuclear bomb and eventually they will have the means to deliver them. They will also sell the technology to our enemies. We should pull out of South Korea and let them deal with this huge, huge nightmare.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  6. Bill - From Chicago

    Gavin – honestly bud, keep telling yourself that it was Bush that kept us safe – he is exactly why we are hated – his swagger alone is enough to make you change the station. They guy needed to be humble and instead he decided to pull out his six iron and "Smoke em out of their holes" Texas style....seriously there are other ways.

    I am a big Obama supporter, but I do think he needs to be more demanding about the release of the two reporters – ofcourse, maybe he is....the media is not reporting it.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  7. Mike

    1. Tell China to get on board to assist in a release.
    2. Give N. Korea a for-real deadline to release them
    3. If #'s 2 & 3 fail, turn that dump into a giant Glow-Ball. Only when/if the nuts running that place think we are serious, will we get serious results.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  8. Marine Corp View

    This is a sad situation but you do not nuke thousands od innocent people and have thousands of US troops to die for two people who are still alive and were off on their own selfish mission.
    This country refuses to raise VA Hospitals to the best standards in teh country. All of you are petty and won't fight your way out of a paper bag. I think all women and men shoudl be made to join the military so you can make an educated decision. For those know the situation, the true circumstances know that this enemy is no Sadam and this will not be an easy kill. And what makes you think China is going to let you nuke them. Nuclear clouds float and can kill millions in neighboring countries.
    I see why Obama is president, we need somebody with a brain.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Tony

    Journalists shouldn't be imprisoned for doing their job. Yes these girls did something incredibly stupid, but the fact is that they do not deserve 12 years in a North Korean prison for doing what they did.

    It was brave prisoners and journalists that have let the world know about previous brutal regimes and other atrocities. North Korea is one of the most evil places on the earth and I do not believe that anyone is defending the imprisonment of these two girls.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  10. Pants

    Good response Dave (and the rest of you liberal do-nothings). Why don't we just roll over, let Obama run his Apology Tour 2009, worry about same-sex marriage, and maybe let China & Russia (who are still NOT our 'friends', as you liberal idiots want us to think) have final say in any and all political moves we make in the future. Oh, lets not forget OPEC...they clearly need to make some foreign policy decisions for us also. Down with Kim Jong-il, before this insane 'little dick-tator" really does something harmful besides sabre rattle. The US has historically never negotiated with terrorists (yes, NK is a terrorist nation), and we should not start now. Where's Ronnie when you need him?

    As far as the 2 young ladies are concerned, my condolences to their families. This will not have a happy ending for them. Far more than just 2 have died for the preservation of this great country's morals and edicts.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  11. lydia

    sounds like the jails in Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Araipo has tons of incarcerated Mexicans and other people of color who are forced to work in chain gangs in temperatures above 100 degrees, and eat expired meat.

    We should focus on releasing the two journalists + reforming the system in the United States.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  12. Enviro Nut

    Al Gore would help, but that would mean flying over there, and that means emitting greenhouse gaz, and that's evil, so better let them rot.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  13. Liz

    Russ you are true troll... With that being said I understand that these two women were not in N. Korean territory,but were in fact abducted near the border. It far time that China step up to the plate and use their influence to help control N.Korea's antics. We as americans buy every thing from China. China needs to become a responsible and humanitarian citizen with all the wealth they have accumulated out of our pockets. I hope and pray that these journalist make it back to the United States they were very courages in trying to bring us stories of human suffering and now they are the ones who are suffering. The world needs more journalist like these two.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  14. c.

    russ, this has nothing to do with you or what happened to you. this is a much bigger issue on a much grander scale, wouldn't you think?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Joe

    North Korea has a population that is ruled by a dictator. He does not care about the people in his nation except for how they view him. Now What? We certainly cannot attack the country, because the people are not in control ... nor is the military. How does one deal with an insane dictator? Few dictators of his power have existed in recent times. Most have been defeated in war. What does Kim Jong Il have to loose? He's a potential dead man serving in the position of a dictator! ... Maybe we just wait it out and hope his succesor has sanity!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  16. "Elle" from Sac

    No one in the US really knows what happened, yet there are a number of you that seem so sure. This is strange to me! The trial was a secret and the outcome unknown outside of NK border. If this was on the up and up, there should have been no problem allowing a neutral, third party to view the court proceedings. Furthermore, even if what NK convicted them of is true, the punishment is highly inappropriate. Think about this – America values journalistic opinion and even encourages it (you are reading and commenting on CNN, afterall) by consuming the content. By eating up the reporting, the public is a partner is sending our journalists into danger. It is unreasonable to dismiss this with a "they did the crime, they should do the time" attitude.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  17. David

    Dave- Kevin's comparison with Gitmo isn't 'black and white simplicity'; but rather a fairly valid point that highlights the inconsistency and hypocrisy of many liberal Americans. You protest Gitmo and the Bush administration as if this is the worst thing in the world; call for prosecutions and denounce US 'war crimes' whereas we have a regime in NK that imprisons hundreds of thousands in despicable condition, keeps the rest of its populace in a state of fear and near starvation, and constantly threatens its neighbors – and yet you have nothing constructive to offer about this except platitudes and calls for 'tough sanctions'. How about saving some of that tough talk for Kim? Oh, wait, that would require some backbone.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  18. dga

    Understandably, most are concerned about the 2 women's welfare. What astonishes me is all of the calls to nuke the country. How can the pro-nukers express concern for 2 people that certainly bear some responsibility for their predicament, yet show no concern for the more than thousands of innocents that would be killed by a nuke. We can only hope that it doesn't go that far.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  19. Faye

    Go over the border and you get 12 years?! Like wow! We'd have to build thousands of new prisons to hold all the illegals that are coming over our borders. Hmmm . . . small problem.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  20. bookworm

    "reporters are too nosy for their own good – there are places and things that do not need to be investigated by the media – sorry for the women – but they asked for it"

    Oh, really robert? Do you work for the North Korean govt??? I have nothing but respect for these two journalists who went where very few are willing to go tell a story that frankly needs to be told. I, for one, would not take at face value North Korea's version that they had crossed the border. Remember, a few years ago North Korea admitted to kidnaping Japanese citizens to teach in their spy schools.

    Think about it–we get to debate among each other about this story. All of these comments on this page, some thoughtful some not so much, all of these would be disallowed in NK.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  21. Paul Levy

    Oh Suzanne how unbelievably naive you are. Despite our egos we are not the most powerful military in the world. China is and that's why we never were able to win the war in Korea or Vietnam. The only reason China hasn't already attacked the US is because we are their number one customer and crucial to their economy being the vast majority of products we buy here are made in China. Get a clue. These people turn on us we are dead. They have a 3 million man military and weapons that could wipe us of the face of the planet. We can't even beat a bunch of camel jockeys hiding under rocks.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  22. Judge Smails

    " I agree with SS… if these were white journalists, there’d be no hesitation to level with N. Korea." Ah good the race card. I wondered when it would be played. Of course we will thumb our nose at people other than white Americans. Well put moron.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  23. stinger

    It appears to me that the folks who are running the North Korean government have the mentality of a pre-teen bully. Their actions speak louder than any words they can muster. I'm afraid that once they have the technology to deliver nukes as weapons, they will use this irrational behavior that they so far have been displaying to act without much reason.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  24. James

    Also, God, please bless and keep the girls!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  25. Fay

    I feel sorry for the 2 reporters. Does anyone know what really happened? They could have been kidnapped on the Chinese border and brought to the North Korean side to be arrested knowing that they could use them. I would put nothing past the North Korean idiots. If this was happening to anyone else, we would want to be helped. Everyone needs to think about that before casting harsh words against them. We need to pray for them.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  26. joey

    jay and neal are correct, THEY put themselves in that situation, NOT ANYONE ELSE, THEY did. SO pay the time if you do the crime, which was not not NOT to enter into their territory.

    PEOPLE must FOCUS on NUCLEAR WEAPONS, whom do you think they will sell them to. UMM IRAN! how did IRAN get to where they are already.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  27. John

    The 2 women were/are stupid. They got what they deserved. The US should deal with illegal aliens the same way… 12 years of cutting grass or migrant labor for all illegal aliens caught… Now that will be a stimulus….

    June 9, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  28. Lisa

    Russ, you sound like a total idiot. Also you should look up the definition of "remorse," you're definitely using that word wrong. I think you meant to say sympathy. Either way, you sound like a total idiot.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  29. BRoKEAmerica

    America is bankrupt.......lets go over there and start another war??

    we are already fighting 2.....why not a 3rd.....

    some of you people need to get rid of the ego and stop flexin your arms....

    america is not the police of the world, and can not afford to get into another war.....

    you can over there and fight...or send your kids.

    not me

    June 9, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  30. mycentsworth

    It will be interesting to see how the diplomatic double standard plays out. Foreign nationals incarcerated under dubious conditions. Sounds all to familiar to me.

    So, is your prevailing attitude towards many in Gitmo similar to these American journalists?

    Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see them released, but don't be surprised if the US gets the same response as it has given in response to those who ended up in Gitmo.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  31. wayne

    ....did i just read that comment correctly?!? nuke NK?! seriously?! maybe you don't agree with the way President Obama is trying to handle the situation but to suggest that he should nuke NK. while he's at it why doesn't he nuke Iran as well? Where/when does it stop? on your front porch. haven't we learned anything from the past or have we forgotten?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  32. Mike J

    As most of the border between NK and China is the Yalu River, they were either clearly in China or clearly in NK. Two people with them escaped – hence this could be be resolved openly.

    To the lady who wants to Nuke NK, we would do that at risk of seeing 1/3 of the population of South Korea die in the next hour. The border of the countries is so close to the population centers of South Korea, they are vulnerable even to conventional artillery.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  33. Annie

    First of all,Thanks Russ for giving me a good laugh when you said you were an idiot who couldn't make comparisons!!
    Second of all, these women were reporters taking a risk. Their families said they never intended to go across the border , and if they did so it was a mistake. Have some compassion people! Many great reporters risk their lives to tell the story.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  34. NYRICH01

    Russ, you make friends fast!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  35. pete cornett

    I am having a hard time feeling very sympathetic for these women. The media is constantly trying to push their limits with each story and it looks like it has finally caught up with them.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  36. Ken

    It is a situation I think should be dealt with a heavier hand; unless of course the US is trying to soften it so the ladies are imprisoned in a soft target.

    Reporters as a whole have a job to do demanded by every person who has responded to this article, I believe the risks they take to report all atrocities foreign and domestic are important to keep governments accountable.

    My immature side wants the US to send a team in and rescue the women while simultaneously taking out all known and suspected nuke targets.

    Hopefully a more peaceful solution comes to play to get our people back in country.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  37. gem

    Do I have sympathy for idiots climbing over fences in a zoo to be with the lions ? No !!!!!!! 12 years should be about the right length of time to get with the program...........

    June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  38. Ted

    Heres a tip: Dont go to North Korea.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  39. James

    There is no way their sentence is not politically related. The sad part about this is China appears to be nothing more than a third rate watch dog in this. China, being a nation we continually see as an ally and a trade partner needs to help apply a little pressure on N Korea for their continued crimes agains humanity. Especially since N Korea is right in their back yard. Should this escalate, I would hope the American government will not utilize another "police action" and work with China and S Korea to finally and permanently dismantle this idiotic little regime. Can you think of one single nation you would consider credible that would treat journalists in this manner or any nation that is worthy of our trust and trade? The N Korean government needs to be erased. Period. God bless the families of the two girls.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  40. chang

    Maybe they could become the prison prostitutes and do favors in exchange for better treatment. They could provide oral and anal, and maybe ocassional hand-y work.

    This is what they should do in order to survive.

    Bummer for them.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  41. Russ

    I am a Phoenix

    June 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  42. P

    People who do not know Sh*t about politics should keep their mouths shut...yea that means you Suzzanne Lee.
    What a dumby...yea lets nuke north korea, sounds like a GREAT idea. I'm sure that will go over really really well with the rest of the international community too. And I doubt there will be any type of retaliation either.
    N. Korea has already warned that even sanctions will be viewed as an act of war...they are not a joke and we need to take the situation in asia seriously or we may all just end up being nuked ourselves.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  43. Tom

    You all miss the greater issue here- If we choose to attack North Korea, we will have the wrath of China on our shoulders. These reporters made a choice, and a bad one at that. now they have to live with the consequences. We can't use the military to attack N Korea without China's consent. And China sells a lot of goods to N Korea and have always been in their pocket.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  44. EddieZ

    It's important to remember that these women may not have been in N. Korea when they were detained. There are reports that N. Korean guards went across the border into China to kidnap them. If this turns out to be the case, I would have no problem with our military going to get them!!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  45. Schmorz

    Here is clear reality:

    1. Stay out of North Korea because they are wackos. They will kill you for no reason.

    2. These women will never see the light of day, they will die in a prison camp and this will be by design of the N. Koreans.

    3. Hillary is right, we have to do somethign about Kim Jung Il BEFORE he lights off a nuke. If you think he won't do it, think again. So much for her "No War" promises.

    4. N. Koreans are taught to hate America at birth. See the documentary "Inside North Korea". We have an entire generation of haters to deal wtih over there, not an easy task.

    5. N. Koreans are destitute and starving while the great leader has taken the money and time to amass the world's largest collection of Daffy Duck memorabilia. Wack-Job.

    6. N. Koreans imprision 3 generations of your family if you speak out against the regime or try to leave the country.

    7. N. Koreans use their own prisoners for human medical experimentation, just like the Nazis.

    Anyone who thinks we can "reason" with the N. Koreans is dead wrong. They respond to force and nothing else. If they had ANY oil at all, Kim Jung Il would already be dead.

    Fun huh?

    June 9, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  46. adam

    suzanne lee: you are a moron. you are so dumb that i actually took the time out of my day to write these two sentences.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  47. neal

    These women have to face the consequences they put themselves in. I hope the US doesn't give up anything to make a deal for them. That would be a waste of upper hand for 2 people who were reckless. Stay out of a country if you're not invited and it's forbidden.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  48. Jay

    It is time for journalists and humanitarian workers to become more responsible. I know it's your passion "to get the story" but is it worth chasing a story at the cost of 12 years in a N. Korean prison? More importantly the stress it puts on your families and now two countries. I'm not putting blame on these two beautiful people, far from that, I'm ask for sensibilty amongst people like this. I'm from a L.A. but I'm not going to Compton at 1am, it's common sense. Your humanitarian/journalistic efforts provide no service to anyone if your dead or imprisoned as a result, you in turn become the story.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm |
  49. Daren

    Where's the satellite map of this prison layout? God help us on some of those comments.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm |
  50. bob

    Paul:
    Technically, we were never at war with North Korea. It was a Police Action. War was never declared.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  51. Biff

    well, if they were kidnapped in China...that sucks...and so does China... Its funny though..liberal media now wants hard action..hypocrites..

    and @ SS, youre an idiot to think the race of these reporters plays a role in public perception..have fun living with a race card that doesn't work anymore...take a look sweat heart..America ain't white anymore you moron.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  52. Steve

    I feel sory for those two poor ladies, even more so for their families, but how irresponsible they were! They could contribute next to nothing toward our understanding and knowledge about NK with that mission they undertook. Instead they put US in an awkward position, for a grain of fame, or whatever they expected to gain from there. They went there voluntarily, and mind you, you here talk m ore about them than about soldiers that die almost every day in Iraq. But that seem to be a boring topic nowdays, isn't it?

    June 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  53. Denise

    We live in different times since 9/11. All those conventional code of ethics and dealing with captured civilians or journalists treating them with kid gloves is OVER. With Gitmo and the USA behaving in the same rogue manner why would we expect NK to behave other than an aggressive hostile nation would do? Those two women are collateral damage. In this new era.
    The wisest thing to do is stay away from hostile countries and these so called new journalist who are new junkies hooked on getting that story need to wise up. You're a fool risking your life trying to get a story that most of the nation will forget in less than a week.
    Those 2 women may get out from negotiations but you know NK is setting them up as an example to stay away...the mental torture alone is enough to keep them and their families in a state they'll never forget.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  54. Jim

    If the reporters families actually cared about them they would have stopped them from going there. We aren't living in a safe world and I would warn anyone traveling outside of the U.S. to watch out! If it was my sister, wife, daughter, I would have never let her go.

    All the brains in the world these two women probably have but no common sense.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  55. Flaming Liberal

    Re: In response to Suzanne Lee's comment.
    I think the people of South Korea would appreciate our restraint in using a nuclear weapon. Also, China itself would resort to a "tit for tat" as they are both an ally of NK and their proximity to a nuclear blast would be devastating. Nuclear weapons won't solve anything.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  56. nick

    Ok people this is the problem we the american people need to stand together and MAKE obama get these girls out we are the most powerful country in the WORLD get rid of the wanna b dictator north korea has been playing bad games for a long time thats it lets do it wipe these F--ers of the face of the map and while were doing that have isrial go take care of iran its a matter of time before it happens so lets get this damn ball rolln DRAFT i say bring it wheres my boots i would jump on that plane anyday AMERICAN GOVERMENT quit trying to be the better man it aint working lets go.........................

    June 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  57. Jill Stauffer

    What happened to compassion? I cannot believe some of the comments that are presented. We need to support our fellow Americans and help them in any way we can!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  58. David

    I wish the families well. But we have to hang tough. No concessions, no trades, period. The only way we will ever break the back of this despicable regime is by a combination of total isolation and active assistance to an insurgency. It's time to upset the apple cart in North Korea and make life unpleasant for these murderers.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  59. Motcha

    I once enjoyed surfing really big scary waves and riding my mountain bike at 55 mph along crazy steep cliffs...all of that however was put into perspective and tamed down when I had a child. It's great to say "I did it!" but nothing should be more important than our families. I only hope that these girls felt they were on relatively safe ground, cause if they did indeed push the limits on the NK border; it's just not worth it for a story. That said, I hope for their safe return but this is so much bigger than either of them. I can only imagine what they will be going through and hope it's somehow cut short...not just for them, but for everyone in such a prison. The world is sick.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  60. Amber

    I have to agree with some of these people. Don't you sort of have a death wish to go the places like Iran and NK? I mean, they are journalists, not military or doctors providing needed medical care. I do feel for them and pray they are returned but I think US citizens need to stay out of these countries. It is asking for trouble and putting the US in a dangerous situation. Why should we risk a war because some journalists got themselves in prison. And yes, where is their employer, Al Gore? Oh that's right, he has no nuts either.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  61. Tracy

    I am astonished and appalled by sheer stupidity of many of the comments posted here. It is disgusting that so many "Americans" are willing to *nuke* an entire country because they (rightly or wrongly) are holding 2 Americans in prison. Seriously people, grow up..

    June 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  62. Susan

    1) Not clear they were in NK territory
    2) No appropriate representation or even American observers allowed at their trial
    3) Clearly being used as pawns – might even go so far as to say "hostages"

    The US should not allow this kind of abduction of its citizens by another state. Although nukes are clearly not warranted we should go in and get them if we can gather enough intelligence to be able to act. Unfortunately, I doubt Obama has the balls for this kind of decisive action.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  63. Michael Martin

    Holy smokes. A lot of you people have broken moral compasses. A free press is essential to the freedoms all individuals deserve. No state or leader has the moral authority to curtail those freedoms. The US Founders did not invent that idea, they confirmed it.

    I'm sorry that so many of you have bad feelings about journalists and I realize, that like all human beings reporters sometimes intrude on moments where one of more of us wish they wouldn't, but try to imagine a world where we don't have any of them.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  64. nick

    We feed this pathetic nation. That's why they rattle their nuclear sabers every few years. It's to renegotiate their rice contract with us. Just hold back the chow supply line and see how quick they get released.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  65. Gavin

    To Bill – From Chicago:

    if you do some actual reading it wasn't the republicans who turned this blog into a bush/obama, GITMO debate...it was the whining liberals (as in all cases) who started typing up stupid and false comparisons between GITMO and NK labor camps.

    and i hope you think bush is a moron, because it is small minded, thick headed people like you who do not appreciate how he kept our nation safe after the most shocking and terrible attack on this nation since pearl harbor

    June 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  66. werkerbee

    "Mark Primavera, the comment you made about Mexican and Guatemalan is so rude and inhumane. I am not a mexican or Guatemalan, but they sneak in this country to do jobs that you would not do. Jobs that need to be done so you can survive and live the American dream. No human should be called a garbage. You are moving so far from the topic at hand.

    Let us pray for these ladies and their families. WE NEED TO CALL upon JESUS Who we have NEGLECTED OVER THE YEARS.

    Nothing is impossible for Almighty God."

    urgh, you had me right up until you had to bring jesus and god into the picture.....*shakes head*

    June 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  67. Jay

    What this is all really about is North Korea's struggle for national power and identity. North Korea knows that the U.S. has a 'weakness', that is we are humane and we value human lives and rights down to the last.

    “North Korea's leaders are calculating that the durability of their grip on power hinges on being recognized as a "de facto nuclear power," said former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Washington Post)

    ...Unfortunately, these two women were detained and have not only been caught-up in the middle, but have increased the complexity of the nuclear escalation by the Communist State of North Korea.

    However, few of us will ever know the truth behind what the 'journalists' were actually doing in North Korea.

    We have a policy not to 'Bargain' with terrorists. Fundamentally, North Korea is a nation that supports the 'terrorist mentality' and in my opinion would gladly assist any terrorist cell with America in their sights.
    Therefore, It is MY opinion, that we let these two journalist rot if need be, and make it clear to both the American public and American Ex-pats, that any American entering North Korea does so at his/her own risk. This leaves North Korea powerless. The notion that the U.S. should concede ANYTHING for these two lives is complete idiocy and irrational.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  68. Mockbar

    I say we send special units in there and flex some american muscle. A very big and special unti that would not take any names, or take any prisoners.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  69. jenlyn

    How it "looks good" on two innocent women to be sentenced to 12 years of hard labour for trying to share the plight of North Korean refugees in China is beyond me. Grow up!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  70. Eric

    Some of these comments are so ignorant. Although these women took certain risk, it was with the intention to do some good in this world. These women are REAL reporters, attempting to unveil to the rest of the world what is going on in N. Korea. They are NOT these fake pundits we see on TV. These women do not deserve this. They were brave women to take this risk, and they did so because they believed that they could make a difference.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  71. E. Keith

    I'm shocked by the responses on this post. Whatever happened to caring about our fellow human beings? What kind of society have we become? These women do not deserve this, and if any one of us were in this situation we and our families would be quite scared.
    I am praying these women come home safe, and I'm praying for our future as United State citizens because it looks bleak.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  72. David

    HA HA at people saying Gitmo is a country club. Yeah cause you've been there. Also to the lady and is suggesting to nuke North Korea, as long as you go fight in the war and your kids, then we'll see what your opinion on that is. Safe to say from the safety of your own home.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  73. Pete Weaver

    The two journalist got them selves in a bad situation.
    ,Why in the world did they evr get that close to The n korean boreder.I am sure South korea must have had a Marker or fence of some kind with a warning no closer to Border than this. They have a no Mans lands at 38th paralel with a safe zone inbetween .I suggest since they werer working for a AL Gore Company let Al junmp on a plane and go get them released. I understan he has accumalted over a hundred million dollars since he has been out of office. that be enought to bribe anybody .It seem I remember a fellow having some of his workers in prison in Iran and he actualy went and got them ,its time for Al gore to step up and let us see what he is made of. { Oh Ya the man was Ross Perot hell of a man

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  74. Countdown

    It won't be long people. It won't be long. 2012 is just around the corner. God have mercy on all of us...

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  75. Dr. Ew

    All you can do is hope for the Very best! Thought's a prayer's to all family's involved, "Put in a Good Word!"

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  76. Jim from Texas

    If only Chuck Norris were a little younger...

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  77. jimmy

    A country that has a dictator like N.Korea and his eldest son doesn't want any part of being the next leader – not much more has to be said about the conditions and future of this, so called nation.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  78. Jason B

    Listen folks.....we cannot be the World's police force. Other country's live by their own rules regardless of how wretched and wrong we perceive them to be. But at least we know they exist. These reporters took a foolish chance playingwith fire. Do they deserve what they got when caught? Of course not....at least by OUR standards. But over there they were playing by the insane rules of the North Koreans. Got to be smarter than that. Sorry, but two reporters in their prison should NOT hold our nation hostage in any other political decsion to be made.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  79. Bill - From Chicago

    Paul – I disagree on the basis that North Korea is a Dictatorship and its actions are not representative of its people's desires. We are dealing with a nut job whoes nut job kids are going to be running the country soon. Strategically – we should do nothing but sit back and watch North Korea implode, and trust me, it will implode. Let's see what his new son really wants to do after Kim dies.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  80. Bob Winters

    Looks like these two little cutie pies are going to get a 12 year taste of reality making small rocks out of the big ones. No more makeup and hair spray. They will keep them separate so they won't see each other for the duration of the sentence. Maybe they'll be shoveling coal in separate coal mines. Poor poor babies.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  81. Anne

    Tom Wittman: Please do not call these women “American”. They are Korean with an US passport, continuimg to be active in Korean politics and a Russ implies, the North can
    make a case by somewhat justifying their actions.

    Anne: They are not Korean. Laura Ling was born in California. Her family came originally from Taiwan. She's an American citizen by birth. What do you do....just make stuff up? You can't get an American passport unless you can prove you were born here or go through the naturalization process.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  82. megan

    Those women will more than likely come to some "unfortuanate ending" in prison. To me it sounds like they have some dirt of N Korea. If Obama wasn't a p*ssy he would demand their release but he isn't all he pretended to be. He is far worse than Bush and Clinton. He is soo busy kissing buttes and giving away trillions of dollars he isn't looking out for our citizens. Which is what they are, American citizens befire journalists. They are moms, daughters and sisters and we should be doing more than petting N Korea to get them back. But our wonderful new administration is soo busy they dont have the time to address something of real importance.

    God be with these women cause obviously our government wont.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  83. Jason

    Wow, these are some of the most moronic comments I have ever read. Definitely underscores why someone with an IQ of 100 (the average by the way) is a blithering idiot.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  84. josh

    their country, their rules. everyone on this whole comment board sits back and is smug but has no idea of what a lack of freedom is really like. sorry for these two ladies, but there are people working to get them back.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  85. misterkhann

    you people are scary in your ignorance and hate

    June 9, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  86. no worse than gitmo

    the two "journalists" are guilty as charged and convicted.

    they won't be waterboarded, but put to the reeducational process of productive labor,

    which they know nothing about

    since their training is in for-profit-at-any-cost corporate "journalism".

    June 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  87. Scott

    Gee I guess they thought that because the are American they would have some form of immunity if they got caught. Perhaps they thought they were smarter then the goverment of North Korea. One with children and the other with "sever medical issues" entering a crap hole land bordered by two communist countries with their Yanky Doodle Dandy passport and typical American attitude. If I was Kim I would just shoot 'em. If there that stupid a people, I would not want them tainting the other prisioners. They'll probably end up getting themselves killed for yaping and playing stupid headgames with their guards.

    Most laws in any western land are made to protect the people from themselves. But if people want to get themselves into deep
    Kim-Che, there is no stoping them and why waste the collective resources of others. Let nature takes it's course. Darwin awards for both!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  88. H

    Tom Wittmann,

    First of all, not both of them are Korean– only one of the two is.

    Second of all, if they're not Americans, then who in the US is? In that sense, no one is "American". We're all just people from other countries that settled in the US. You can't just say someone's not American just because they're from Korea. If she's living in the U.S., working for America, calling herself American, she's also American just like any other Americans in America.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  89. michael

    To all of you advocates of rights for illegal immigrants here in the US and with the same breath bash this country's policies on that issue, take a look at this. 12 Years for stepping into a country illegally. Here they would have already had medical benefits, their kids enrolled in school and a group of overzealous yahoos defending them. Stop bashing our country, because I am certain that these girls would do anything in the world to be back here now, where they belong! Now it is time for us to act as the World Power we are and get OUR citizens back!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  90. S Callahan

    I would say to the ruler of Noth Korea that God was not the one who inlicted you in your stroke, but he is the one who helped you out of it. Have mercy on those woman, as God had mercy on you.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm |
  91. Justin

    It's very simple.

    Play with fire – you're gonna get burned

    These reporters wanted "the story of their lives" – they got caught.

    They knew the consequences – they took the risk – they pay the fine.

    Don't bother rescuing them – if they survive – they'll get a great book deal and in the end they'll get "the story of their lives".

    June 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  92. john

    Obama and Gore will find a way to blame Bush. America needs to stay out of this issue. If you do the crime, you do the time!!!!! Heh, heh.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  93. rob

    all of our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew what the usa has done in the last 100 years or so. shame on the usa for letting the us citizens down.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  94. Dominick

    People...The question whether the NK guards came into China to get them or not isnt the question. Why were they over there to begin with...
    I personally don't think I will ever travel to the border of China and NK. I would rather cut my wrists and clean them with salt water. I don't care about people getting kidnapped and dragged across ( the story they were after). For that matter I don't care what the hell all those animals do to each other over there,,,,that's half our problem. We need to just live and mind our own business,

    June 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  95. Chris

    All the civilized world has to do is create an uprising from within to get Kim overthrown. You do that by cutting off all of this god-forsaken food and fuel aid that we give to them (Um, maybe give that aid out to the people at home? That's an idea!). Let's face it-when we donate this stuff, it gets right into the hands of the military. It doesn't even go to the people it is intended for. For if that were the case, then that estimated 2 million people wouldn't havhe starved to death in the 1990's. CUT OFF the aid, the people AND the military will not see this idiot as "a living God" any longer, and then watch him get the Nicolae Ceaucescu treatment one day. Simle as that.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  96. Liz

    Reporters are so irresponsible. They invariably put stories and their 15 minutes of fame above common sense...and then expect people to come to their rescue. I'm not condemning them...just saying that when you go to Vegas (or North Korea) you are fully aware that the odds and consequences are not in your favor. You "pay your money and take your chances." I have no more sympathy for reporters who do stupid things than I do for people who "play with fire"...eventually you're going to get burned.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  97. JS

    It seems like there's a lot of judgment toward these women for entering N. Korea at their own risk, but weren't they actually in China when they were captured? The last I heard there was speculation as to whether they were actually in N. Korea or just NEAR the N. Korean border & NK border guards actually captured them in China. Either way, a "they had it coming to them" attitude seems a little harsh considering the circumstances. If journalists didn't take these kinds of risks there would be a lot of stories and information we would never know about that affect thousands of people's lives and influence positive change.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  98. JS

    Interesting comments, ranging from far left to far right! My own view is somewhere towards the right along the lines of "Why do we have this almighty military if we don't intend to use it?". As Americans, we have always been somewhat naive thinking that tactics that we would like people to use with us will work with others. Unfortunately, not the case at all! However, maybe Obama and his policy of talking with anyone and everyone about anything and everything will work with the NK's. I doubt it though, and I'm left with concern for the (2) reporters, their families, the direction of US foreign policy and the state of the world my kids are going to have to live in in a future I once thot was allot further off!

    June 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  99. WE BELIEVE YOU CNN

    especially when you dehumanize north koreans,

    you sound very sincere and credible.

    NOT.

    i know you neo-cons at CNN are gonna screen this comment out.

    June 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  100. Nial Jones

    LOL!! yeah i am sure you'd be saying that if you yourself was sent to Gitmo. LOL!!! ok so u want us to just nuke all of north korea and kill millions upon millions of innocent people that have nothing to do with crazy kim jong's decisions. Tell me, if we did that, would we the great U.S. be ANY better then North Korea? Think before you speak, because you sound like a horrible dictator yourself

    June 9, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
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