Journalists freed by North Korea claim arrest was in China

Two American journalists freed from North Korea last month after the intervention of former president Bill Clinton said yesterday they were arrested in China.

Making their first statement on their arrest, Laura Ling and Euna Lee admitted straying briefly across the Chinese boarder into North Korea while they attempted to report on refuges earlier this year.

The pair said they deeply regretted crossing into North Korea. However, they had already turned back and were ‘firmly back inside China’ when North Korean border guards gave chase and captured them.

The transgression of no more than ‘a minute’ on 17 March resulted in the journalists each being sentenced to 12 years hard labour for hostile acts and trespass.

Ling and Lee, detailing the events that led up to their capture yesterday on current.com, said they had no intention of leaving China, but were encouraged by their guide to cross a frozen river demarking the border between the two countries.

They said: “Feeling nervous about where we were, we quickly turned back toward China. Midway across the ice, we heard yelling. We looked back and saw two North Korean soldiers with rifles running toward us. Instinctively, we ran.

“We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us. Producer Mitch Koss and our guide were both able to outrun the border guards. We were not.

“We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers.”

The journalists said upon capture they swallowed their notes and destroyed videotapes to limit the consequences of their arrest, and avoided disclosing the names of their sources and interview subjects.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il pardoned the two and ordered their release after Bill Clinton travelled to North Korean capital Pyongyang for talks last month.

The reporters for former US vice-president Al Gore’s California-based Current TV, were arrested in March while working on a story about human trafficking of North Korean women into China.

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