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Korea: Two American Journalists are detained in North Korea.

Two American Journalists – a Korean American and Chinese American – are detained in North Korea after they tried to report on North Korean issues (It is known that they were interested in female North Korean defectors). Three days behind, the South Korean media started talking about this incident in public. Surprisingly, there are not many reactions to this scandal from bloggers and netizens. While media focuses on their detention in North Korea, netizens are more keen on how domestic and international media portray this scandal and how it will affect other political and diplomatic matters between North Korea and other countries.


북한이 美 국적의 여기자 2명을 억류하고 있다고 한다.북한 미사일 발사와 관련하여 한국과 북한은 물론 미국과도 긴장관계를 조성하고 있는 북한이 이번에는 취재 기자를 억류함으로써 상황은 더욱 불안하게 전개되고 있다. 억류 경위에 대해서는 좀 더 자세한 정황을 알아봐야 하겠지만, 지금 상황에서 이런 일이 발생한 것은 간단한 문제가 아니다. 북한이 자기들의 미사일 발사 의지를 과시하고, 미국과의 타협점을 모색하기 위해 이 사건을 이용하려 하는 점을 간과해서는 안된다.이 건과 미사일 건은 분명 다르다.

North Korea detained two female journalists from the US. At present, North Korea has tense relations with South Korea and the US due to launching missiles. The detention of the two American journalists will make the relations of the countries worse. We should study in more detail why they are detained, but it is not a simple issue. North Korea shows off their intention of launching missiles and in order to look for a meeting point with the US they might try to make use of this incident. But we should acknowledge that this scandal should be separate from the issue of launching missiles.


한국 언론들, 특히 보수지들은 마치 북한이 미국 여기자를 강제로 체포해서 억류하고 있는 양 사실관계를 호도하는 기사를 내보내고 있다. 여기자들은 가만히 있었는데 북한이 납치했다는 식으로 싸이코패스적 언어를 동원하고 있는데 대북관계 보도에서 중요한 것은 팩트에 기반해야 하지만 우리나라 언론들은 일본의 극우신문을 베껴대거나 소설쓰기를 주로 하는게 문제점이다. 미국측의 반응을 볼 때 이번 사건은 북한의 일방적 조치라기 보다는 여기자들이 북한에 밀입국했다가 발각돼 체포됐을 가능성이 높다.  언론에 보도된 미국측의 반응은 우리 언론과 달리 매우 신중한 입장이다.

Korean media, especially conservative media, tend to interpret the situations as North Korea forcefully arrest these American journalists and detain them. Those people were just there and North Korea kidnapped them. They make use of this psychopathic language. The most important thing in news about North Korea should be based on facts.  However, our media copies some newspapers of extreme right wings from Japan or makes fiction. When we look at reactions from the US, it is highly possible that those journalists smuggled themselves into North Korea and were arrested rather than North Korea kidnapped them intentionally. The US even shows more cautious attitudes than our media.

국내언론의 호들갑과 왜곡 추측보도 남발
사건 개요에 대해 20일자 연합뉴스에 “투먼 부근 두만강가에서 잡혔다”고 보도하고 있으나 기사를 찬찬히 보면 인근 주민들이 “그랬을 거다”라는 말을 기정사실처럼 단정짓고 있는 추측보도에 지나지 않다. 개념상실 보수지인 헤럴드 경제는 유엔인권이사회가 마치 여기자 억류사태와 관련해 결의안을 채택하는 것인양 제목과 기사에서 교묘히 왜곡하고 있다.

미국측 반응
스티븐스 주한미대사 :  “정보 분명하지 않은 상황, 사실관계를 알아본 뒤 대처하겠다”
로버트우드 미국무부대변인 ” 모든 채널 동원해 정보수집하고 있다”
미 국무부 : 북측에 유감 표명. 평양주재 스웨덴 대사관통해 접촉시도

Exaggerating of domestic media and distorted and presumptive news.
When we look at YTN News on the 20th, it says “They were caught at the Tumen Riverside near Tumen.” When you look into the news, residents there said, “Maybe.” But it turned to be a fact. Herald Economy distorted the story that the UN Humans Right Commission made a resolution related to this scandal in the title and article of the news.

The US Reaction
American ambassador, Stevens: “We don’t have clear information. We will react after checking what happened.”
Representative of the US Military Affair Department, Robert Wood: “We collect information using all kinds of channels”
The US Military Affair Department: Expressing their regret to the side of the North Korean Government and trying to contact the Swedish Embassy that is located in Pyongyang.

국내외 언론반응 – 외신과 극과 극
국내 보수단체 극우파들은 억류사태에 이념공격에 정치문제화하며 열심히 악플도배중
국내 보수지와 일부통신사 : 억류 이유 추측보도 남발하거나 억류이유 언급하지 않고 반북이데올로기에 치중돼 있음. “무슨 이유인지 알수 없으나 억류중”
미국등 외신들 : 여기자 억류 이유에 대한 보도가 중심임. “촬영 제재를 거부해 체포”
AP통신 -19일자  중국 국경 부근 조선족자치주 연길시에서 단둥시 근처 압록강으로 향하는 중에 천기원씨와 조우. (천기원 두리하나 탈북자 선교단체 대표와 전화통화 인용 보도)
천대표는 국경부근이 위험하므로 이들이 국경에 가는 것을 만류했다고 함.

CBS – 북한에 접근하지 말라는 경고를 무시했다.(역시 취재원은 천대표인 듯)
they ignored warnings to stop shooting footage of the reclusive country but a third managed to elude capture, news reports and an activist with ties to the reporters said Thursday.

Media responses by domestic and international sides – So different from foreign news
Conservative media is focusing on attacking ideology and interprets it politically. They make presumptive reports and don’t mention why they are detained. They just focus on anti-North Korea ideology. “We don’t know the reasons, but they are detained.”
Other foreign news: They focus on the reasons why they’re detained. “They continued taking photographs regardless of warning. So they were arrested.”

AP Correspondence on the 19th – They met Cheon Ki-won in between Yanji, Ethnic Korean Autonomous Region near border of China and North Korea and the Yalu River in Dandong City. (The news talked with Cheon Ki-won who is the representative of the Christian Missionary Group for North Korean defectors). He encouraged them not to go to the border for their safety.

CBS – Those journalists disregarded the warning not to be close to North Korea (It seems that CBS contacted Mr. Cheon as well)
“ they ignored warnings to stop shooting footage of the reclusive country but a third managed to elude capture, news reports and an activist with ties to the reporters said Thursday.”

북은 “법대로” 언론들은 “북핵 미사일 등 협상사안과 연계
어쨌든 사태가 해결되길 바라지만 이번 사건은 북한측의 문제라기 보다는 이들 취재진의 겁없는 행동이 발단이 된듯 하네요. 북한 국경을 침범하는 등 취재진의 과실이 분명해진다면 해결이 매우 어려울 테고 미국측의 협상 노력도 만만하지는 않을 듯.
북측이 이번 건 해결을 두고 미사일 문제 북핵 협상과정에서 우위를 차지할 수도 있고 아예 무관한 사안으로 취급할 수도 있는데 유엔 북대사의 말을 빌자면 “법대로”라는 말에서 여타 외교적 사안과 무관하게 처리할 것이라는 분위기.

North Korea says “following the law.” Media talks about this scandal related to North Korean nuclear missiles.”
Anyway, I hope that the incident is solved well. I think that this incident was caused due to reckless behavior by those journalists rather than North Korea’s bad behavior. If it is the mistake of the journalists, it won’t be easy to solve the problems. The US might have hard time to find solutions.

North Korea would be in an advantageous situation about negotiating North Korean nuclear missiles due to this scandal. Or they might treat this scandal completely separate. North Korean Representative of the UN said, “following the law.” It seems that they will deal with this separately from diplomatic issues.


북한을 뜨거운 감자처럼 여기고 있는 중국이 어떻게 대응할지도 관심사. 들고 있기에는 너무 뜨겁고, 그렇다고 삼킬 수도 없고. 만일 북한이 두만강을 건너 기자들을 억류한 것이라면 문제는 심가해진다. 북한문제를 해결함에 있어서 중국의 도움을 간절히 기대하고 있는 미국. 미국의 쇠퇴를 틈타 동북아의 판도를 다시 짜기를 희망하는 중국. 두 나라가 이번 사건을 계기로… 자기들끼리 쑥덕쑥덕…오마이 갓. 암튼 우리나라로선 신경을 바싹 곤두세워야 할일이 하나 더 늘어난 셈이다.

It is interesting how China, which regards North Korea as a hot potato will react. It is too hot to hold, and to swallow. If North Korea detained those journalists, crossing the Tumen River, it will be serious. America expect that China helps them to solve North Korean issues. Using weakening of the US, China wants to change who has power in Northeast China. The two countries might have another kind of conversation with this scandal. Oh my god. Anyway, we have another issue to be worried about.


  • Dear Hyejin Kim:
    Can you do the world a favor and see if you can find any mention of the Yanji guide’s name? The 3 American journalists (Laura Ling, Euna Lee, and Mitch Koss) were accompanied by an ethnic Korean citizen of China who led them to the Tumen River.
    I have read recent reports that South Korean activists are familiar with this guide, but now nobody knows where that guide is.
    정말 감사합니다.

  • UPDATE: North Korea just published their report on the KCNA website concerning the American journalists. The report mentions the guide who was referred by Pastor Chun Ki-Won in South Korea:

    3월 17일 6시 미취 코스와 로라 링, 리승은은 천기원이 소개하여준 김성철의 안내에 따라 중국 도문시 월정진으로부터 얼어붙은 두만강을 건너 우리 측 대안에 올라선 후 록화촬영기로 주변을 촬영하면서 《우리는 방금 허가없이 북조선경내에 들어왔습니다.》라는 해설을 록음하고 침입기념으로 땅바닥에서 돌맹이를 하나 주어넣기까지 하였다.

    Please help me with the translation as there is one particular name that I have not seen before:
    “Kim Sung-chul”

    Could this possibly be the name of the ethnic Korean guide in Yanji (a citizen of China) that led Current TV’s crew across the Tumen River?

    Thanks for any help you can provide!

  • I went to the blog of “Ask A Korean” and asked “The Korean” for help with this translation:

    On March 17 at 6 o’clock, Mitch Koss, Laura Ling and Seung-Eun Lee, following the guide of Kim Sung-Cheol to whom they were introduced by Chun Ki-Won, crossed the frozen Tumen river from China’s Domun-shi, Woljeong-jin. After reaching our shore, they recorded with a narration “We have just entered within North Korean borders without permission” as they filmed the surroundings with a video camera. They even picked up a rock in their pocket as a memento of the trespass.

    In addition to this useful information, “Ask A Korean” also translated an interview with the North Korean sentry that captured the 2 American journalists:

    Ask a Korean! News: Joo Seong-Ha on Laura Ling and Euna Lee

    Here is something for the followers of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Joo Seong-Ha of Nambuk Story has spoken to the guard who captured the reporters:

    I tried to find out the circumstances of the capture. A border patrol officer
    who is stationed in Gang’An-Li simply answered, “We saw the women roaming
    around in early morning, so we caught them.” I asked him, “Did you get
    someone to lure them into crossing the border?” “You weren’t waiting for them?”,
    etc., but he replied, “Not at all.” … Also considering that the men
    who ran away are keeping quiet, it does seem like it was the reporters’ fault.

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