Wouldn’t you think the media would be a little more invested in figuring out why Ling and Lee were considered threats by North Korea? It’s because they were investigating sex trafficking for Current TV, as only briefly noted in this NYT article, which states: “It ended a harrowing ordeal for the two women, who were stopped on March 17 by soldiers near North Korea’s border with China while researching a report about women and human trafficking.” I hope that Ling and Lee will be given a platform to talk about their research, in addition to their release, very soon. Via Heart, note the following:
According to the 2008 U.S. State Department Report on Trafficking in Persons:
Highly Vulnerable: North Korean Refugees
Extremely poor economic and humanitarian conditions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) combined with a severe shortage of jobs, a lack of basic freedoms, and a system of political repression have led many North Koreans to seek a way out. They escaped across the border into the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) where tens of thousands of North Koreans may now reside illegally, more than half of whom are women. With conditions in their home country making North Koreans ripe for exploitation, the Tumen and Yalu River borders are”hot spots”for the trafficking of mostly North Korean women and girls.
Some North Korean women and children voluntarily cross the border into China and then in a foreign environment are captured by traffickers for both sexual exploitation and forced labor. Other times they are lured out of North Korea with the promise of a”better life”as waitresses or factory workers, then prostituted in brothels or ensnared in coercive labor arrangements. Some of the women are sold as brides to Chinese nationals, usually within the ethnically Korean border region.
Exacerbating their plight, North Koreans discovered by Chinese authorities are treated as illegal economic migrants in China and threatened with forced repatriation where they face severe punishment, or even execution, for escaping. A core principle of an effective anti-trafficking strategy is the protection of all victims, including foreign nationals. While the P.R.C. has taken some steps to address trafficking in persons across its borders with Vietnam and Burma, it has done little to address the status of vulnerable North Koreans within its borders, and does not provide North Korean trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal from China. The humanitarian and economic situation in the D.P.R.K. has not shown marked improvement. Neither government is doing enough to punish or prevent the trafficking of North Korean men, women, and children.
I’m thrilled that Ling and Lee were released and I hope they are willing and able to continue their important work.