August 21, 2009 07:39
Video footage shot by two TV journalists who were detained in North Korea after filming on the Chinese border was used by China to round up on North Korean refugees. China also deported one South Korean human rights activist who is seen in the footage and closed five orphanages that had protected North Korean children.
The two reporters were sentenced to 12 years hard labor but freed after a visit to North Korea by former U.S. president Bill Clinton on Aug. 5.
Chinese police also confiscated related materials including list of activists working for North Korean refugees in China, data on North Korean orphans, and video footage showing North Korean women who were sold into the Chinese countryside or appeared in porn videos.
The claims were made Thursday by Lee Chan-woo (71), a pastor with the Durihana Mission, a South Korean organization that aids North Korean defectors. Lee was caught and deported by Chinese police for helping the two reporters, who worked for former U.S. vice president Al Gore's Internet news channel Current TV.
Lee said Laura Ling, Euna Lee and a man named Mitch Koss met him at a hotel in Yanji, in China's Jilin Province, on March 14. They said they wanted to gather information about North Korean women who were working in adult videos at the North Korean-Chinese border area and on other North Korean women who were sold into the Chinese countryside.
They also wanted to know about children born to North Korean women and Chinese men. At the time, Lee was protecting some 21 children who had been abandoned by their Chinese families after their mothers were taken back to the North at five orphanages.
"I allowed them to collect information about the children on condition that they would not film their faces," he said.
The three visited an orphanage the following day. Euna Lee, who speaks fluent Korean, asked children to send video messages to their mothers who had been deported to the North, and to bow to their mothers in front of the camera. But Lee said he stopped them from filming the scene.
The next day, the journalists filmed North Korean women at the border. They crossed the border and were arrested by North Korean soldiers on March 17. Ling and Lee were taken to North Korea, but Koss made it back and was arrested by Chinese border guards and handed over the video footage he was carrying.
On the early morning of Mar. 19, Chinese police raided Lee's house and confiscated his computer, camera and various documents. "The documents contained the personal information of 25 North Korean orphans in addition to the children staying at the orphanages, and the phone numbers and addresses of human rights activists and their future plans," he said. "I was interrogated intensively by three Korean-Chinese police officers until March 26. It was during interrogation that I found out that Chinese police had confiscated the video."
Lee was deported to South Korea on April 8 after paying a fine of 20,000 yuan (approximately W4 million). "The five orphanages were forced to close down one by one," he said. "I found Chinese relatives for 17 of the 21 orphans and a safe shelter for the remaining four, who have no relatives there."
Koss declined to comment, and it was not possible to contact Euna Lee.
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