August 07, 2009 09:10
Lisa Ling, an award-winning investigative journalist and the elder sister of Laura Ling, one of the two American journalists released from North Korea on Tuesday, said her sister was fed rice containing rocks during her 142-day detention in the communist country.
Laura Ling was arrested with Korean-American Euna Lee for illegally entering North Korea and the two were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. They were granted amnesty after former U.S. president Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang and met with the country's leader Kim Jong-il.
The two journalists have so far remained silent about their experience in captivity. According to the Associated Press, Lisa said that Laura is "a little bit weak" and that "she's really, really anxious to have fresh fruit and fresh food." "There were rocks in her rice. Obviously, it's a country that has a lot of economic problems."
Lisa said that after their trial the two women were sent to a guest house rather than to a labor camp. CBS reported on Wednesday that Laura suffered from an ulcer and was allowed regular visits by a doctor, while Lee lost 15 pounds during the detention.
The two journalists reportedly were treated relatively well during their ordeal. According to some reports, they stayed in a luxury guest house in Pyongyang and were served American-style meals such as eggs and toast with milk. The Daily NK reported that North Korea seems to have allowed them special treatment in a calculation of the consequences of their future return to the U.S.
The women were mostly kept apart after their capture, which is why they hugged and were happy to see each other at their trial on June 4, Lisa said. She said that Laura had four telephone conversations with her family in the U.S. while she was held by the North.
Unlike previous occasions, North Korea did not demand money for the release of the journalists, Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday, quoting an official at the U.S. State Department. In 1994 when releasing chief warrant officer Bobby Hall, a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Forces in Korea who strayed into North Korean territory during a low-altitude flight, Pyongyang demanded US$10,000 for the cost of international calls. In 1996, when releasing Evan Hunziker, an American civilian arrested by the North on espionage charges after he swam across the Apnok (or Yalu) River, the communist country demanded US$100,000 in fines.
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