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The Maroon News

Student News Site for the Argo News Network

The Maroon News

Student News Site for the Argo News Network

The Maroon News

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“The World is Bigger Now” – Euna Lee and Lisa Dickey

following the heartbreaking story of Euna Lee, an American journalist taken into North Korean custody and held for 140 days.
Picture of Euna Lee
Picture of Euna Lee

Euna Lee and her coworker, Laura Ling, were taken into custody on March 17, 2009, when they approached the border between North Korea and China. Euna Lee spent a total of 140 days in custody but her journey as a journalist is much longer.

Euna Lee grew up and was born in South Korea. She eventually moved to the United States to study video production in San Francisco at the Academy of Art University. She married Michael Saldate soon after and had a daughter, named Hana. Euna Lee worked for Current TV, previously a broadcast station, as an editor. Lee was captivated by stories of North Korean Defectors after watching “Seoul Train” and was determined to help defectors with their struggle. Soon, Lee had what appeared to be the perfect opportunity to do so.

“As journalists, we went to the heart of the story we believed needed to be told” Lee reflects in her book. “We were striving to bring to light circumstances few viewers would have context for understanding. In seeking to make our reporting as truthful and powerful as it needed to be, we made choices that, in retrospect, were perhaps unwise.”

Lee went to China with Laura Ling and another coworker to work on a documentary to talk about North Korean defectors. They had met with several victims and talked with women that were forced to make themselves vulnerable online in order to provide for themselves and gain money. The three were escorted by a guide who one day brought the three of them close to the North Korean border to get some footage when two guards managed to grab both Lee and Ling.

While some time was spent together, Lee and Ling were separated and forced to spend most of their time by themselves. At first, they spent a few nights in a cell, but later they were moved to a much nicer building where they each had a bathroom and bedroom to themselves.

During her time in captivity, Lee struggled emotionally. As a Christian, she believed that God had abandoned her. Lee also struggled to be away from her young, 4-year-old daughter as well as her husband. Lee had no way to get in contact but over time she was allowed letters and phone calls.

In the beginning, Lee was interrogated by a general who, over time, she began to enjoy the company of. Later, the interrogation stopped, however, the general would still visit her. In her book, Lee mentions the conflicts she felt throughout the whole ordeal.

Lee was sentenced to 12 years at a labor camp for her crimes in North Korea. Lee remained hopeful that the United States would come to free her and Ling, and eventually she got her wish. Former president Bill Clinton helped to free Laura and Ling on a humanitarian visit to North Korea.

The project that Lee was working on before she was captured never made it to screen, but she wrote her book to bring light to the problems North Korean defectors face, as well as the struggle they have for freedom. Lee’s book talks about the emotional toll her captivity brought upon her. Ling also published a book on her time during captivity called “Somewhere Inside” which also talks about Ling’s sister, a journalist that fought for her sister’s freedom.

Lee’s story is captivating and brings light to and issue that isn’t talked about. Lee continues to speak forward about her experiences and is an inspiring figure.

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About the Contributor
Emily Cardinal, Staff Writer
Emily is a returning senior and has been a member of the Maroon News for two years. She is a bowler, reader, and a writer. Not only is she apart of the Maroon News, she is also on the school radio, WARG 88.9, where you can listen to her every friday after school. Emily loves writing for the newspaper and being involved within the school.

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