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June 9th, 2009
10:28 AM ET

Life inside a North Korean prison

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Sup3rman

    Hi tim, we have better Nukes now.
    (not as much fallout....More "tactical".

    Don't get me wrong, not endorcing Nuclear confrintation,
    But I was bought up believing America doesn't run from aggression.
    Besides, i don't think America will need to use a nuke to set N Korea on a path of peace, this can be done with conventional bombs.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  2. Biff

    Don Corpier , did you have half your brian blown off in Nam? I was a LRRP, 3yrs there.... and you don't understand the issue...NK believes we are at war with them. These prisoners, in the eyes of the NK leadership, are POWs. While its a sad case, they understood the consequences...just like I did everytime I went were I wasn't supposed to ...

    By attacking " rednecks" you are no better. Seek higher ground in an arguement and you may win. But hey, youre a Marine, what can I expect.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  3. C-Tray

    Well at least if we decide to go to war with North Korea, it's for a legitimate reason (We know they have nukes and American prisoners) unlike Iraq. Has anyone figured out why we're wasting resources in Iraq yet?

    June 9, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  4. Cassandra

    Suzanne Lee, that is the most idiotic comment I have ever read in my life.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  5. TTY

    I believe they were abducted in Chinese territory by N Korean agents

    they'll never put them in the real NKOR gulags, they don't even speak korean. They will be in solitary confinement in Kim IL Jong's basement for other types of punishment

    June 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  6. Bill

    The situation with North Korea is very delicate because of it's proximity to South Korea and Japan, both of which are our allies and important trading partners. North Korea's actions are insane, which means that we must be very careful about how we deal with them to avoid setting off a war in a region critical to the US.

    Caveman mentality is not going work in this day and age.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  7. Bill - From Chicago

    I have heard that they were on the Chineese side of the boarder and not on the North Korean side. No way of knowing for sure, but let's say that they were on the Chineese side – then we are dealing with the illegal kidnapping of two American Citizens – it is no different than soldiers comming into the US and taking 2 of our citizens into custody.

    Sad thing is that if we entered their country and took two of their own, we would be providing them with better care than their own country – food, medical, education, TV and way more freedom than they enjoy today. They might beg for it if they only knew what they were missing!

    June 9, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  8. Ola

    I do feel sorry for these women BUT I must wonder why did they go close or cross into North Korea. This is not a country like France where they think its okay to go into the country and make a report. Americans need to be wise and stop trying to follow a story. Sometimes we believe we are above the law to get a story. If they were successful and their report came out how would it change the price of tea in the market tomorrow. Most countries know about North Korea and how their government is we dont need a story. Americans need to mind their business. Like I said I feel sorry for them and I dont think 12yrs is a fair punished. Should they receive a punishment Yes. We have to understand different countries have different laws and we cant think that because we have a "blue" passport we are above others. Some people say they are american citizens and they need to come home what about the people in Gitmo they are citizens of other countries and need to be in their home countries. WHY isnt that the case ?

    June 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  9. Jon

    I agree, I'm so sick and tired of Obama trying to make friends with every dictator. Being the President of the United States is more than making PR appearances. What has he really done, other than dump taxpayer money into a horrible stimulus package, put a 30-something, with no experience, in charge of the GM bailout, and make numerous appearances on Letterman and Leno and all the other night talk shows? Oh yea, he tried to make friends with dictators and terrorist leaders. He even made a college basketball NCAA bracket! I'm sorry, but stop basking in your own victory and do your job, or find someone who will.

    Nuking another country is stupid, the only reason we made nukes was to deter the USSR, the cold war is over guys...just send in a couple thousand M1A2 tanks and park a couple carriers off their coast and we'll see what happens 🙂 Whoever said that the US military is weak is stupid, just because we get tied up in fighting insurgency doesn't mean that we are weak, it means that we care. That dictatorship should've been taken down, and we should be there to make sure that another one doesn't come up to fill the void. We can blow up every village and town in the middle east using conventional weapons, but we don't. It's not our fault if the populace is too ignorant to fight for their own freedom.

    I feel sorry for the reporters and the trouble that THEY got THEMSELVES into. However, I don't feel that the US should sacrifice national security to help out a couple of reporters who got themselves into trouble. Just like soldiers, they knew the risks when they signed up. They also knew the risks when entering a hostile country, with little to no human rights, and partook in actions that would obviously make that country angry with them. Sorry, you're on your own.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  10. angel

    I think it is time for North Korea to own up to the issues and release these two journalists.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  11. Corey

    I think Russ' point is that reporters will cross the line all to often for a story, which is why he has no empathy for them...

    These reporters took a risk, they knew the conscequences, they got caught and are now facing them music. Similar to when I get caught DUI.

    I think it's good that the U.S. is working for their release, but I don't think everyone should automatically feel remorse for the reporters, or even contempt for NK. After all this isn't the first time NK has punished foreign reporters for snooping around.

    FYI, the U.S. does the same thing. They lock illegal immigrants up for years before eventually deporting them, if they're lucky.

    June 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  12. james brandenstein

    I'm betting they were on the Chinese side of the border when they were captured by North Korean Military.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  13. Tom

    I am of the belief that once you leave the USA borders, you are on your own... It is dangerous in these other countries. If you go there, you are taking a risk... That said, a better solution would be to just go get the girls. Let things die down a bit and then send in some delta force guys to get them out. That would really piss off NK when they realize that the girls are gone..

    June 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  14. Wesley

    I guess North Korea should have country club prisons like here
    in the states since we have a low rate of crime

    June 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  15. Smarts

    you people that are saying obama is dumb for trying to make peace with countries ppl like Bush couldnt are STUPID. nuking em isnt gonna solve crap, besides have more countries want to attack us.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Tim

    To the commenter that these two sneaked into the country, they did not according to the news – they were kidnapped on the Chinese border and brought into North Korea. And to the commenter saying that we should use nukes, this person obviously has no comprehension of the fact that you can't set off nukes and leave the devastation to where the bomb was dropped – fallout would go into the atmosphere and spread about the world as well as the fact that once nukes are dropped that land area is uninhabitable for a very long time. These bombs are not like the ones dropped in 1945, they are hundreds if not thousands of time stronger – I honestly cannot believe how stupid some people are, idiots who advocate genocide

    June 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  17. Andre

    They knew is was a hostile country... they should be more careful when they were going in the first place ! What would happen if two North Korean reporters were caught doing same in USA? Then our media would justify their sentencing as spies. Also, nuclear talk is ridiculous… who are we to talk about nuclear tests? It would be the same as if A-Rod was criticizing rookies who just tried steroids for the first time. It’s a joke! Aren’t we the only country in the world that used A-bombs to smash two cities and kill thousands civilians and mess up generations with radiation?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  18. Nancy

    As much as I hate to say this, those journalists did not belong there. They clearly knew what they were doing was "illegal" and dangerous (for their own good) on North Korean grounds. They snuck in and now they got caught. There really is nothing more to it.

    We are now spending a ton of resources which could go towards other things trying to save their stupid selves. We should let the current diplomats and UN work to make things better and ease tensions than having these so-called independent journalists try and take matters into their own hands.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  19. steve

    Martini DiWarren June 9th, 2009 12:45 pm ET
    If they didn’t know what the consequences were, they’re much stupider than I originally thought they were.

    stupider? Is that a new word smart one?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  20. Shantel

    Where are the liberals now, why are they not screaming from the roof tops on what is happening to these women. We have people cross our borders each and every day illegally, the liberals want to make sure they are cared for, treated well, they are provided education, food, health care, etc. Yet they are not up in arms about two American Citizens being treated this way.....Where are our priorties AMERICA, we care more about illegeal immigrants that cross our borders daily oh how they are treated...their RIGHTS, but we do not care about our own citizens, how they are treated, little to no health care, little to no food! HELLO CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST...CAN NOT HEAR YOU!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  21. Rick

    Way to go Al Gore.Sending two women to North Korea.

    An Inconvenient Truth!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  22. Chuck D

    When we used enhanced interigations on Terrorists, the world screamed. When journalists get sent to jail for 12 years for doing honest reporting the world says nothing. Why are not the Democrats screaming torture. Life in those prisons is torture. It is not like putting a person in a cold room or making him listen to loud noises or water boarding. They die in those prisons in NK. But all the major news folks do not call for the head of N Korea. Very biased news reporting.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  23. Eric

    I would love to hear how many people making the attack N. Korea comments actually served in some type of military environment. Being a veteran myself I can see nothing good coming out of another war with N. Korea.
    Nuking? People actually think this is an option? Do you tell your kids to punch another kid in the face for taking his ball at school? People shout and scream to get our troops out of Iraq, but yet have no problem saying nuke those suckers. Do we have any WWII buffs in here? Is the globe not heading down a familiar path? Last question for feedback. Someone made the comment of we are the most powerful country and we are scared of stepping on toes. With what money do you suggest we use when we fight another front?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  24. angel

    North Korea needs to wake up and change. They should put the communists in the labor camps and let the people live in peace. They put innocent people in prison for the most moronic reasons. So what the journalists crossed the boarder, 12 years for that come on they are journalists. I think the UN needs to address an emergency meeting and get these two women released. The world can do more and not turn there backs. I guess we are waiting for another world war II!
    We need to stop North Korea on everything before they do something terrible. FREE Those journalists.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  25. james brandenstein

    And the rest of the world will not find out of their deathes until long after it has happened. If ever.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  26. pam

    i feel sorry for the journalists, their friends/families, and for all of the US citizens. I feel the north koreans keep testing nukes and stuff i think we should use the kidnapping of our journalists as an excuse to lauch a rocket or two their way to get their attention and for them to know the US is NOT going to take this laying down. We need to give them a time frame to release or suffer the conscequences.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  27. Peter

    At least North Korea gave them a trial. Most in Gitmo never will have one.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  28. james brandenstein

    I believe they will not be released , they will serve their sentence in a North Korean prison. And that they will die there.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  29. Lindsey

    We should all support our fellow Americans and hope for the best. That is all we can and should do.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  30. andy


    I don't understand why you would post such an insensitive and outright ridiculous comment. Are you that simple that because two reporters pissed you off that you think two other reporters completely unrelated to you and doing investigative work that is actually beneficial and important can be sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, and you "have no remorse about it". I really do hope you're a teenager or younger, because if you aren't I'm afraid its too late for you.

    I really do hope that both Euna and Ms Ling will find their freedom soon, I'm sure that given all the publicity this case has been getting, the administration will do its utmost to win their release.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  31. Jack

    Let's get Seal Team Six in there and bring them home!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  32. gary

    Bukkakist: Race traitors? Wtf are you talking about?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  33. Ann Marie

    don corpier – switch to decaff

    I'll take a page from the President's book, who are we to judge the actions of North Korea? We can't inflict our judgments on the rest of the world. Clearly Obama needs another stop on the apology tour.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  34. Alex

    Re: Russ @ 12:42. You obviously have no concept of what journalism is about. They're people doing their jobs and there is absolutely no sane way anyone can compare "sneaking into" a funeral (if that actually happened) and being locked up at hard labor for 12 years for attempting to do a job that involves freedom of speech. If you don't support freedom of speech, I'm sure Kim Jong has a rental incentive to offer ya.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  35. angel

    These two journalists need to be released at once and returned to the USA. North Korea is just using them as a scape goat . I just hope they do the right thing otherwise I think the world needs to boycott this country and give them nothing. Meaning no aid at all to this country. As a whole world we need to take down the communist they are as bad as the Germans and HItler error. Shame on North Korea.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  36. mk3656

    "Journalists" huh is that what we call spies now a days. I think our media is leaving out a big part of the story here. Why the heck would we have journalists sneak into a country?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  37. Sandy

    It's not that easy, Have you stop for a minute and think what would mean going into war with Nork Korea?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  38. Marc

    Very sorry for the families of the two prisoners. It's a fine line to walk between the right and wrong of this issue.

    1 North Korea has a border and NO one should cross it with approval.
    2 The punishement does not fit the crime.
    3 IF they were illegally in North Korea they should face jail time just as illegals in this country should face jail time.

    We always seem to think everyone should be like us and their not. North Korea is not the USA and we should not expect them to treat people the way we do.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  39. Bill - From Chicago

    Don – I was expecting you to tell all the "Bush Loving Rednecks" that you were going to rip off thier head and S*it down their necks –

    I am more of a liberal than a consertative, but there are things that the consertatives believe that I too believe it. I think that it is ignorant to make up ones mind on an issue based on party affiliation without listening to the facts.

    Semper Fi bud and thanks for your service – but give your fellow "red neck" americans a break – they are still americans and love this country as much as you do.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  40. Joe

    Regardless of these 2 journalists, the time to strike North Korea has come. Letting them build up their nuclear arsenal guarantees a massive nuclear exchange in the near future.

    We have to strike right now or it will be too late. Having Obama in office during this is a tragedy of unimaginable size. We need a commander in chief to deal with this and instead we have a celebrity.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  41. Ashley P

    Reading these comments Iam appalled at the lack of compassion for these two women.
    As a professional journalist myself I feel for these women. They were in no way trying to invade into North Korea...and to subject these women to scrutiny is ridiculous.
    They were doing a job, many of you on this forum have jobs. If this was your mother, sister, aunt cousin or friend you would be outraged. 12 years of hard labor is not a fit punishment

    June 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  42. Chae

    For those who say that these reporters should have known what they were getting into when they strayed near NK border... Wait a second and think. Just how were you able to know about the atrocious conditions in NK? Reporters like them got near the harm's way, built rapport with locals and escaped prisoners and personally risked capture like this to get you the story. It is the height of ingratitude that you dismiss these reporters for getting what's coming to them,as you say.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  43. greg stewart

    If all liberals are cry babies, then all conservatives are ignorant

    June 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  44. Jo

    June 9th, 2009 12:45 pm ET
    And liberals are whining like little cry babies about Gitmo. In the grand universe of world prisions, Gitmo is a country club."
    Liberals are "whining" about Gitmo because WE are not supposed to act like the North Koreans!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  45. Deener

    Mr. Obama should apologize to North Korea for our bullying. Since he's already out apologing to everyone else, one more country won't make a big difference. Once we apologize, and grovel hands and knees asking for forgiveness, maybe the journalists will be released on "humanitarian" reasons. North Korea can then look like the good guys and we can take it up the tail pipe which is our new foreign policy these days. We don't want to ruffle any feathers ya know.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  46. John Lee

    I will not become a prisoner in North Korea! You know why? Because I am smart enough to read and know that if I entered their country without permission, I would be tried and sent to prison in North Korea. These 2 ladies rolled the dice and lost. Enough said!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  47. jerry

    The reporters went looking for trouble and they found it. There should be no negotiations for their release.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  48. Lisa

    How did we as US citizens become so heartless? Nuke North Korea? Let the reporters suffer? Criticize our President for trying to create peace? I don't get the sense that Obama is apologizing, but if some country came to the US to check for weapons of mass destruction, but didn't find them and then killed 70,000 innocent men, woman and children, I think an apology would be justified – or maybe would could nuke them.

    God help us all!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  49. DustinAZ

    America needs to stop trying to run the world. You do a crime in another country, you have to do there time. Don't call home crying and try to have America clean up your mess. I feel bad for those two women, but they should of known better. Every country has it's own laws and we as Americans have to follow them, we may not agree, but We're in THERE "house". America needs to relize that its different out there and other countries do things there way! On that note, America needs to stop being the World's 9-1-1 and start taking care of its own people!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  50. Casey Saucier

    Suzanne Lee- Your comments are not only appalling but frankly dangerous. Where do we as American's get off thinking that we are the rulers of the world? Diplomacy works. The use of nuclear weapons is ludicrous! We are all citizens of the world and have a moral obligation to one another.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  51. don corpier

    after reading some of the idiotic comments i want to puke. i think every red neck in this country crawled out of the sewer. what does gitmo and water boarding have to do with this situation???? because n. korea has probably the most horrific prisons on earth that means that it is alright for us to torture and violate human rights!!!! this a is democracy supposedly founded on moral principals. you morons that look at other governments and say it is ok to violate human rights because it is better than others like PRC and N. KOREA dont have a clue about democracy. your hatred and ignorance makes me sick. then again what do you expect from a bunch of beer guzzling red neck bush groupies. being a journalist is high risk in certain situations and these two have paid the price. they dont deserve the punishment of some kangaroo court in N.KOREA. i have a love-hate relationship with reporters. they have a lot of bad points but they have also done a lot of good things that have changed laws and saved lives. i think the best thing that could happen is they take all of you bush groupies out and water board you for about 15 times, then deny you any legal representation. all of you have a constitutional right to voice your opinion no matter how draconian it may be. that is far more than you idiots are willing to concede to all of us cry baby liberals. if i were to organize all of the remarks of you wonderful right wing zealots together it would sound a lot like many of the remarks made by adolf hitler. please dont go on and on about 911. i am sick and tired about the 911 thing. why dont you ask some iraqi vet that has had their face blown off and then screwed by the bush administration about what they think. ask the viet nam vets alive and dead what they think about agent orange,blue etc-monsanto corp. developed these chemicals and is still in bed with congress. most of you simpletons would know little or nothing about any of this because you have never been in a war situation. i am a viet nam vet 1968 USMC on 70% service related disability. i have seen death and horror beyond your imagination. i had to deal with little red neck scum many times and their outcome was not pleasant. how can any of you condemn the two reporters that were doing nothing more than reporting on N.KOREA. Russ, you by dear friend or full of hatred and bitterness. you might want to seek mental help. i fill sorry for you. i was once full of anger and hate. after spending 6 months in federal prison and 2 years of ptsd group sessions i am making a great deal of progress.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  52. Joe

    Most of these reader posts are based on the assumption that North Korea is telling the truth when it claims that these reporters crossed illegally into their territory. Based on the history of the rogue regime in North Korea, I think that this is a wrong assumption. North Korea has a history of snatching people illegally from other countries when it suits its needs. What is most likely to have happened is that aggressive North Korean border guards trespassed into China to snatch these reporters. They were acting upon orders of their superiors who found out that two American reporters were very close to the border and working on a story that makes the North Korean government look bad.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  53. bukkakist

    who cares about a couple race traitors like them? let them rot.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  54. blaze

    I agree that they may indeed be considered hostages. One could reasonably apply this label if they were kidnapped from China (as opposed to being apprehended inside NK). At this point we do not know the answer to that question, and no amount of speculation on this board will provide one.

    If the US indeed does come to consider them hostages, there can be no negotiation. That has been – and should always be – the US's policy on hostages. To deviate from it one iota would be to put any American traveling abroad at serious risk, as well

    From NK's perspective, finding two reporters wandering around inside your country (again, if indeed they were in NK – we don't know) while SK and the US are conducting HUGE joint military maneuvers would be unsettling at best.

    And as ALWAYS in such situations, there is absolutely much back-channel work going on. I would not be surprised to find out later that China, Bill Richardson, and Al Gore played a key role.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  55. John Fracchia

    While it is certainly fine to have dissenting opinions, one would hope that it is unnecessary to make said point through the use of racial slurs. Spelling errors do nothing to bolster it either.

    Heinrich, why are you referring to North Koreans as "gooks?"

    June 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  56. Brian

    I can't beleive how many people side with the North Koreans. When the story broke months ago, I thought dang, Americans are gonna be pissed and North Korea finally crossed the line. Seeing the reactions online, alot of Americans almost want to see these girls punished, completely disregarding that Korea wont listen to anyone and are testing nukes left and right. Let's not forget, we dont have any information on this situation besides what we are told. What is North Korea came into China and took them after hearing what the girls were reporting on? Does that change anything? As an American, Im getting sick of Americans and its so easy to see why other countries have the hatred for us.Our attitudes.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  57. gary

    Damn Paul Levy, you took the words right out of my mouth. Suzanne: Can you name the last war that your country fought in (from start to finish) and actually won? Also "so many people need to be nuked these days.." Really? What part of the south and/or midwest are you from? To say that these women got what they deserved is foolish. There are some stories that need to be told regardless of the consequences and in my opinion the starvation and brainwashing of 23 million innocent people is one of them. Its just too bad that the audience is watching reality t.v.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  58. Sara

    Dear Lord,

    Please help all the those who have responded with hateful, judgemental and ignorant/stupid comments because there sure are a lot of people who have absolutely no clue what happened and are basing all their answers on what they have heard from the media.

    Before we judge these ladies, give them the benefit of the doubt that they did not make the decision to sneak into N. Korea on their own. And even if they did, they are American citizens who need to come home. Forgive them and move on.


    June 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  59. carmen

    Mark Primavera?, wonder where your family is originated from with a last name like that, you're an unaimaginable moron!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  60. lex

    Russ- i am sorry that it that happened to you and your friend's family, but you must remember context. These people were trying to report on international human affairs about a country that commits heinous crimes against its citizens.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  61. aldsfj asdflj

    waaa, waaaa!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  62. Yes

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

    I love how people always go back to Christianity as the solution. Get over yourself. Not all of us belief in the foolishness of religion. Laying around waiting for a prayer to be answered is ridiculous. Actions are stronger than prayers. Quit wasting your time.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  63. Chae

    Suzanne Lee:

    Nuking North Korea means death of millions of innocent civilians. Not caring about that would be yet another example of "sickness in this world" you spoke of.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  64. Danna

    there is some great stuff here, that while the situation is not funny in the least, I did laugh out loud at some of these posts.
    I tend to agree about reporters–STOP covering countries that are known to be dangerous, that have the world's worst prisons, and certainly if you are a woman stay clear. One of these women has a four year old girl–all I can think is "what was she thinking?" this is not the kind of job you want to be out doing when you have a family.
    I cannot even imagine the awful conditions they have already faced for 3 months let alone now a labor camp. Just thinking about it is so upsetting. this is a tough spot, we have US people doing dumb things (like the woman journalist in Iran recently as well) and as a country we want to help them out–but they are making dumb choices. Then we have Gitmo, which is a world wide scandal, but yes, compared to these other countries makes it look like a country club.
    Let's get the hell out or Iraq and deal with wacko Iran and NK.
    There are millions of people suffering major atrocities all over the world, so the amount of attention this gets is somewhat unbelievable.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  65. Eric Davis

    North Korea has been asking to be bombed for a long time now. What are we waiting for? It doesn't need to be a full-scale invasion, just a little shelling of government buildings and residences.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  66. A.Louise

    As a journalist, I am disgusted at many of the comments listed here. People complain about 3rd rate journalists, but when heroic journalists like these two women risk their lives to report a story you call them careless, stupid and foolhardy. Good journalism is difficult. Maybe you should all be thankful that SOMEONE in the US will give their all to get to the truth and help provide their families with love and encouragement during this difficult time.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  67. Ramos in Miami

    Its pretty simple, really, all these people implyinjg that these ladies "had it coming" are nothing but cowards who hide behind the curtain of "international law" to justify doing nothing during their whole pathetic lives that would risk their comfortable suburbanite existences for anyone. Surely it is possible to see that , though these journalists may not have exercised the proper caution, their cause was noble and their commitment admirable.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  68. condiment6

    I wonder what would happen if we called their bluff and did nothing.

    Bye bye rake in the chips.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  69. Bill - From Chicago

    I think what we need to do is give Kim Jung Il and XBOX 360 and the game Command and Conquer – he can conquer and destroy anything and everything he wants to without harming anyone – "run through the sprinklers"!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  70. ann

    They knew the rules;now they have to face what ever the punishment maybe for the n.k government.Its not easy street u.s.a.its real punishment.i do feel sorry for them and their familys. it is a total liveing nightmare.I am so glad it was'nt me

    June 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  71. Lisa

    While I have no doubt that this is a political game and the reporters as so many others are being used as chess pieces, North Korean can not be handled with a big stick. This is about diplomacy, a nations rights to develop themselves and not have the UN step in to place rules on the learning process. By using force or strong words will only make things worse on the prisoners. Fellow American's the one issue that we need to be concerned with is our own stupidity. You can never win any conflict if you do not first respect your opponent. Think before you lift up your big sticks to speak loudly.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  72. Bill - From Chicago

    STOP IT – Take the Nuke option off the table already. Those of you advocating the use of tactical or anyother kind of Nuke weapon needs to seriously reflect on your view of humanity and where you fit in.

    Again, anyone against sending Blago to North Korea to negotiate peace? He might walk out with a heafty check for his next election along with the keys to Kim Jung Ils scooter.... 🙂

    June 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  73. Karl Kendrick

    These 2 women are heroes in my book. NK starves it's people to the point of stunted growth and retardation. There are concentration camps in NK that can be seen with google earth. These women put thier necks on the line to expose what is happening to these people. More interest in NK means more digging, means more light shed on the human rights violations againts it's people.

    Fact: NK is not broke! They get tons of money from China. NK also trades with most of the EU. Real sanctions will only work if the EU and China is on board. They will keep starving the people and building nukes until the money is cut off. If the money is cut off NK will fall and where do the people go? It would be a huge blow to SOuth Korea and China does not want them.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  74. Get a life

    You people all need to get a life. Sit back and smoke a fatty and enjoy our great country. If you or I chose to sneak into N. Korea, why should it be the U.S. Governments responsibility to save our rears.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  75. Michael

    These journalists were probably snatched across the border from China. It's been NK's MO for years to do that, infamously with Japanese nationals in the '70s and '80s, some of whom have only recently been released. There's no way their guide took them onto NK territory.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  76. Michael

    Don't be an idiot. Journalism, albeit certainly sometimes done poorly, is a valuable service to society. And to hold two people going into a life threatening labor camp that had nothing to do with your wedding is just ignorant and stupid.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  77. Owen

    These North Korean lunatics should have been dealt with and annihilated during Korean war. Now they have become a real Cancer to the Civilized World.

    I say finish them!


    June 9, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  78. Rick

    Funny reading the comments, a lot of partial truths. I see you all believe in the news media. No we're not going to nuke em, nor do we want to, although I would like too, and a conventional war is not going work because of china. If we do a coventional war with North Korea they will have to start it. But this issue is WAY TOO insignificant. The two people knew exactly what they were doing and gambled. I have spent 22 of my 37 years with the government overseas. I made sure I did not go where I wasnt supposed to be in OTHER PEOPLES countries. You follow thier LAWs. You do not have rights over there. Because of these to idiots, the US may have to make concessions on some issue ( I hope not). I think they should stay 3-4 year and learn how to act in someone else country

    June 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  79. eliyoyo

    How about walling the NK from SK? We could call it the Kimchi SooK Walski. The two LL's are going into the zone breaking rocks, should do it to prevent other dumb broads from trespassaing.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  80. Winnie

    I could only get through a few of these comments before calling it quits. To Russ, Chris and all the other ignorant, ill-informed "commentators"...SHUTUP! You obviously do not understand or have an idea of the inhumane treatment these prisoners suffer, nor do we truely know why/how these women came to be in the position they are in. It does not matter if they are not U.S. born. And to the comments criticizing Obama–honestly? People have to so much to say yet they do so little. What are YOU doing to improve America and our standing with the international community??
    I never imagined CNN to be a forum for stupidity.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  81. Sean

    North Korea is where we will most likely fight our next war. An unrellenting government that chooses to repeatedly disregard other countries and act in a secretive and militant manner can only be planning to make a big move. We need to be decisive with this leader and nation.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  82. werkerbee

    "We should pull out of South Korea and let them deal with this huge, huge nightmare."

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Pulling out of south korea would be a big mistake for the US. Who do you think will be NK's first target once they reach full nuclear capability? You can also bet that osama has a few nukes on pre-order that he can't wait to get his hands on.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  83. John

    These two idiots entered a country illegally. They got caught. The news is says that one has a 4 year old daughter that needs her Mom. She didn't need her Mom when she was in China and crossed the NK border ILLEGALLY ?? Gimma a Break.!!!!!!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  84. jocqo

    The U.S. has to have direct talks with that ol bugger ruling NK and come up with a fair trade up scheme if the feds really want the release of those young ladies. You can't foolishly attack another country for 2 chicks man.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  85. B

    N Korea has been a growing concern. They are further progressing their nuclear powers while our gov sits back and ponders upon the most humane solution. We need less talk and more walk before it becomes an even more serious concern.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  86. Bill - From Chicago

    Mike – I dont agree, but the Giant Glow Ball Remark almost made me fall out of my chair with laughter!

    Marine Corps View – I too served in the Corps, and I disagree with making everyone serve – I don't want to trust my life in the hands of someone who does not want to be in that fighting hole with me – Semper Fi!

    I have the solution – lets send Blago and his good buddy Senator Burris over there and if they negotiate the release will clear them of all charges, and if the North Koreans take em be it....i see that as a Win-Win!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  87. Helen

    Russ and Ted Whittmen, I feel so sorry for you. I think you are very racist, and I hope God will forgive you and you will have a happy ending.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  88. Dave

    Weren't these people working for Al Bore?
    Why can't AB just bail them out?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  89. chang

    they are two ladies who were asking for this. they ae getting what they deserve.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  90. Tom

    Russ is cool, leave him alone!

    June 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  91. Kathy

    I'm not so sure that they have entered the country illegally. It seems a little strange to me that anybody would try to do that. I thought this country had guards and a wall. I would like to know more about how they got in. I definitely do not want to take North Korea's word about what happened. They are definitely not a country I trust. Whatever happens, 12 years is a long time to be imprisoned in a country like that and I think the sentence is harsh. Hopefully, their lives will be spared.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  92. Matt

    I've just got to say something about some of the things I've seen in this comment section. First off, to people who agree with Suzanne Lee (though these are by no means the only comments i take issue with), this kind of attitude is what contributes to the rest of the world thinking of Americans as arrogant bullies. Nuking every country you have a problem with is not the right solution...... ever. You need to stop thinking about a fast easy way out and try to have some kind of broader idea of how the world works. People in this country are too used to short term satisfaction, and it's become so that the population in general won't look at long term solutions/consequences because they want that immediate gratification we're all so used to. So get some perspective before you make inflammatory comments next time.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  93. mk3656

    He Suzanne Lee nuking people does not solve anything, you are a complete nut case.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  94. Bob

    The media not reporting something Obama is doing is like the sun not coming up.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  95. Lee

    People here calling for the nuking of North Korea are just as stupid as the North Korean leadership. First, do you think it's possible to selectively nuke a country's leadership without killing innocent bystanders? Second, where do you think North Korea gets most of their food, fuel and trade from? It's China and Russia. Do you really think they'll stand by and watch while we nuke (or simply invade) a country that they support? Did you know that both of these countries have the ability to strike the US? What if North Korea decided to give their nukes to Al Queda or the Taliban?

    June 9, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  96. Leon Trotsky

    I'm confused. Is America the 'pot' or the 'kettle?'
    There are many countries of the world who have criticized our use of capital punishment as cruel and barbaric, yet we keep on using it, much to the delight of many.
    Now, North Korea has taken action against two journalists who allegedly entered that country illegally and we are outraged.

    But whether we consider the sentencing fair or not, we cannot simply 'nuke them.' How could any reasonable person not regard that as punishment that doesn't fit the crime?

    Like it or not, we are going to have to negotiate with the North Koreans
    in a peaceable way. Getting into a nuclear pissing contest with them will not help these two women.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  97. Joe

    They can keep these two journalists. In my opinion, we have too many journalists in this country and they can be easily replaced by younger more intelligent journalists who would know better not to enter a communist country illegaly. Also, its about time they put women to work doing "hard Labor" I'm so tired of hearing how women get off doing light labot because they are women. If they want equal rights, lets give it to them.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  98. Mark

    At the end of the day the fate of these women depends on the Chinese. The Chinese are extremely frustrated with the North Koreans, and the assumption that the are "friends" is false. The North Koreans have for years been creating fake Chinese currency, and exporting other fake good across the globe. The reason why the Chinese do not take an active role in correcting the North's hostility is because if the country were to collapse even more refugees would enter into China, something that the Chinese are adamant that they do not want to handel. As for the labor camps, I would suggest any who are interested in the ways that the camps are run to read the Aquariums at Pyongyang. This memoir describes that camps and the long and rigrous process that these girls may endure. I do have one comment though about how I believe the outcome for these girls: a release. The girls were specificically abducted by the govenment as a way to recieve fuel or some other type of aid for the failed economy. They were probally tricked by some informant on the Chinese side about the "high-profile" nature of these girl's work and were then seized when they were close to the border. From what I understand the girls did not cross the border, and were probally abducted. The North has done this in the past -look at all the Japanses wives of Kim Jung Ill. The girls will not be hurt, only be forced to do mininal labor and attend some type of "self-correction" meeting. If they were true citizens of the North they would be forced into a camp like Youdok, and probally worked to death. This will not happen though. Again, the key is to engage the Chinese. They have the upper hand in the situation and we must harness their frustrations to get them to force the North to release them. While we can debate about "what" might happen, we must look at the sources and actions the North has done in the past to predict the future. Although the North may seem erratic, they have a definite cyclical way of responding to the world community.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  99. Doug Johnson

    Two things to do:
    All willing family members should announce they intend to step accross the line and turn themselves over to the North Korean Govt to share/divide the sentences up and pay off the 12 years buy whatever number that works out to be, but certainly it will be less than the current 1:12 aspect. As silly as this sounds, it creates a situtation where the North Koreans will have to account to the world about status of two families paying them off through Labor. The two woman alone won't make it, so the more the marrier. And it keeps the balance of the North Koreans judicial system focused on just working the penilaty off to satisfy their justice, if you can call it that. Or, don't do that and those two get separated and lost in a system of hellish existence until they succomb to that environment or something else happens to them.
    Failing that, then POTUS and Korean President order combined forces to conduct continuous feints along the DMZ causing North Korean forces to over exert their resouces by having to continuously move laterally to adjust combat power to offset Combined Forces Korea manuver threats (not easy to cross those mountainous compartments in large numbers....We'd just Dance them to self destruction.....Keep them moving; Line up in the west, then back off, and line up in the east. That scheme will create internal stresses and deplete their limited resources as they try to weight their defenses...When they point their missles our way then we preempt and hit those locations and other control nodes. Bold action may not go well for the two woman, but they did take the risk and they were well aware of them and their sacrifices could net results that bring down that goolish regime.
    Do something Bold President O.....a do not apologize for it... Sometimes you just have to hit the bad guy with his own stick...

    June 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  100. Steve

    These comments blow me away. Honestly, you should be required to pass a critical thinking test before posting. Reminds me of a saying "Better to be thought an idiot than to open up your mouth and prove it". Shame on CNN for posting such an incomplete story, not that 80% of the audience would be able to critically think about a complete one.

    Fun Fact:
    Humans are the only animal that will follow an unstable leader.

    June 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
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