Profiting Off Pyongyang: Laura Ling, Euna Lee & Modern Media
Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have finally broken their silence on the circumstances surrounding their arrest by North Korean guards along the Chinese border back on March 17, in an editorial posted in the L.A. Times.
As many had suspected, Ling, Lee and cameraman/producer Mitchell Koss were led to the frozen Tumen River by their Korean-Chinese guide, ostensibly to shoot some video of a trafficking route used by smugglers to shuttle people and goods across the border. "When we set out," they write in the joint editorial, "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."
They were there less than a minute when, nervous, they began walking back. Halfway across the river, and probably already in China, they heard yelling, and looked back to see two North Korean guards -- probably alerted by the "deep, low hooting sounds" their guide had started making as he had first started across the ice -- running after them. They were firmly back in Chinese territory when apprehended. "They violently dragged us back across the ice to North Korea and marched us to a nearby army base, where we were detained."
Since their return to the U.S. on August 6th, there has been some blogospheric debate on how much the women stand to profit from their misadventure and whether they should profit at all. The predominant attitude seems to be: they caused an international incident through their sheer foolishness, and their high-profile rescue by Bill Clinton legitimized the corrupt regime of Kim Jung-il, so they should just be happy they are alive and shut their pie-holes.
But hey, this is America. Land of the Octomom. A country where, just a few days after the story of Jaycee Dugard's 18-year captivity came to light, Elizabeth Smart was doing the TV rounds....and that's only because Jaycee Dugard isn't ready to ink deals yet. Where even humble little Salon blogs can become best-selling books and movies starring Meryl Streep.
They can put it out there, and we can buy it, not buy it, judge it, blog it, or just ignore it.
To their credit, Lee and Ling have kept a very low profile over the last month. They have undoubtedly been inundated with offers from TV bookers, all of whom live or die by their ability to get the big "get," but have thus far taken no offers. Not even Oprah. Not even Larry King, and that's practically a Federal law at this point. They haven't done magazines, or even radio.
Chances are, when they do emerge, it will be in print, with a book tour to follow. And I don't think it'll only be doing it for the money. Writers and journalists, confronted with new experience, naturally want to explore that experience through words.According to the Wall Street Journal's "Speakeasy" blog, the Sisters Ling are shopping around a proposal for "a book that will examine the meaning of sisterhood and journalistic ideals," according to an anonymous source-in-the-know. "The issue of Laura Ling's captivity will be discussed, but in a larger context." [Update: other sources, also in the know, say that these rumors are false, and there are no proposals currently on the table.]
Right now at least, Euna Lee seems to want only to return to anonymity. About a week after her homecoming, she sent a thank-you email posted on a Facebook group dedicated to their release. "I made scrambled eggs with Hana," she wrote. "I walked around the neighborhood with Michael and Hana after dinner, I combed Hana's hair and dressed her for school, I danced and jumped with Hana, I went to a cafe and had a very happy time with Michael listening to his life and shar[ing] mine, I went to church and was able to sing unto the Lord. I am slowly fulfilling the wish list that I made in North Korea, one item at a time."
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