Sunday, August 9th, 2009...10:57 pm

Notes on the journalists released last week

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After reading up on the journalists that Bill Clinton helped free last week in North Korea, I read that Laura Ling and Euna Lee had been arrested while working on a documentary about human trafficking — the very issue that got me interested in ethical fashion a few years ago. I did a bit of searching on them and found the post Laura Ling, Euna Lee and North Korea written by Nick Kristof in June, just six weeks before their release last week, where he wished them courage and predicted some details of the release. Of their arrest in particular, he said:

The details of the arrests remain unclear; … (The possibility that) I incline to is that Ling and Lee may have been sold to North Korea by a local guide. If the guide said that it was safe to cross, or that they were still on Chinese territory, they would have believed him. Moreover, by some accounts they were working on a story about human trafficking — there’s a good deal of trafficking of North Korean women and girls into China, into prostitution and to be wives of peasants — and the traffickers could well have tricked them in exchange for a reward from North Korea. A couple of years ago, I set up an interview with a trafficker in that border area, but then backed out when he demanded money; the traffickers may realize that the people to demand money from aren’t the journalists but the North Korean officials. And at a time of crisis, when it is undergoing a leadership transition and a confrontation with the West, North Korea would probably pay well for a few extra bargaining chips in the form of American journalists. went into detail about the situation they were reporting on:

The cross-border trafficking between China and North Korean primarily affects women and girls. They are sold as brides and forced into serviles marriages. Some North Korean women are promised greater job opportunities and education in China, along with freedoms not granted in North Korea. Too often, those jobs are forced prostitution or domestic servitude. Women in this region of the world are incredibly vulnerable to trafficking, due to the dire economic situations many of them face and the heavy corruption and criminal activity in the region.

… So as we celebrate Lee and Ling’s safe returns, let us not forget why they suffered months of fear and imprisonment — to discover and report the truth about human trafficking. Let us also not forget that while they are thankfully safe at home with their families, thousands of women and girls in China and North Korea have been torn away from theirs. These women are imprisoned in brothels, homes, marriages, and workplaces. They too are scared and uncertain, Like Ling and Lee were, and wondering when they will see their families and friends again.

Kristof had ended his post with, “You will come home!” Beautiful. So happy they did.

For an at-a-glance look at human trafficking around the world, check out this infographic from GOOD Magazine: Modern Slavery: A Primer. “Right now, the number of enslaved people worldwide is estimated to be 27,000,000.” Etc.

I’m sure the details of the women’s arrest and their work have been cleared up by now — has anyone else read more?

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