Stupid Journalism: The Danger of North Korea

By   |  August 25, 2009

They went to the extremes for a story, and in doing so revealed themselves to be selfish pseudo-martyrs of journalism.

While many tried to see the silver lining in the situation that Current TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling left in their rescued wake, latching onto hopes of better diplomatic ties between the United States and North Korea, a new article by the Los Angeles Times entitled “North Korean refuge network fears crackdown” begs to differ.

And for good reason,it appears. While Lee and Ling endangered their own lives and freedoms¬†by being anywhere near the vicinity of the North Korean-Chinese border, sources based in the countries like missionary Tim Peters say that the journalists’ arrest has also made helping North Koreans escape from their oppresive country “10 times more difficult”. Reverberations from the arrest have extended even to the safe houses for such refugees, prompting embarrased Chinese¬†authorities to close five such sites. Some are also placing the blame on the recent crackdown by Chinese authorities on the cameraman to the duo, Michael Koss, who escaped back into China with footage that most likely put China in the worst light.

I remember watching Welcome to North Korea , a harrowing documentary in which a British journalist goes undercover as a tourist in the desolate country. Images of poverty and a strained facade put on for foreginers clouded my thoughts afterwards, but most especially when the narrator was given a short tour of the river that serves as a border between North Korea and China. Tense, he explained the dangers of just being nearby the area, as authorities from either side can quickly capture you and imprison you in North Korea.

And knowing this, where filming a location heavily policed is an added threat to the inherent danger in just physically being in the locale, I am shocked by the foolhardy risk Lee and Ling took by being there. Were they adequately warned of such dangers? And even if they did venture into North Korea, how could anyone not advise them to do otherwise, considering the impact it has had on aid groups working nearby?

Maybe they were emulating fellow reporter Lisa Ling, who traveled to the country for Oprah under the guise as a medical coordinator in 2006. Whatever their ambitions were, their recklessness put the United States in an extremely compromising position. We had to tip toe around the deplorable Kim Jong Il, whose missile tantrums and cries for attention had previously not been acquiesced.

And with the way our foreign relations are at the moment, news bits like the hikers detained in Iran for accidentally going over the ambigous border shared by Iraq(even though they were warned of hiking in such an area to begin with) leave me seething that we have to go along with the showy antics of leaders like Kim Jong Il just to get back citizens who shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

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