Ling and Lee spent five months in captivity and were sentenced to 12 years hard labor before being set free last month. In their joint statement published today on Current TV’s Web site, they explain how they were detained by North Korean authorities on March 17 along the Tumen River, which separates China and North Korea. The journalists found themselves along the river while working on a story about North Korean defectors and human trafficking. People are regularly trafficked across the Tumen, Ling and Lee explained.
Although they were suspicious of their whereabouts, Ling and Lee followed their guide — who they trusted — onto North Korean soil. They were there for only a minute, but that didn’t stop North Korean guards with guns from chasing them into China and dragging them back onto forbidden soil.
The women provide even more details about the events that lead to their arrest:
“When we set out, we had no intention of leaving China, but when our guide beckoned for us to follow him beyond the middle of the river, we did, eventually arriving at the riverbank on the North Korean side. He pointed out a small village in the distance where he told us that North Koreans waited in safe houses to be smuggled into China via a well-established network that has escorted tens of thousands across the porous border.”