September 03, 2009 07:42
The two U.S. journalists held in North Korea for 140 days and freed by intervention from former U.S. President Bill Clinton claim they were on Chinese soil when they were arrested by North Korean border guards. "We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us," Laura Ling and Euna Lee claim in a story published on the Current TV website Wednesday.
"We didn't spend more than a minute on North Korean soil before turning back, but it is a minute we deeply regret," they add.
The two claim that when they set out from their quarters in China at 5 a.m. on March 17, they had no intention of crossing the border but "inadvertently" went across the Duman (Tumen) River following their guide, a Korean-Chinese man who had helped them gather materials by making contact with associates across the river on a cell phone.
Feeling nervous about where they were, they quickly turned back toward China. "Midway across the ice, we heard yelling. We looked back and saw two North Korean soldiers with rifles running toward us. Instinctively, we ran," they claim.
They were apprehended in China. "We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers," they say.
After their arrest, they "furtively destroyed evidence in [their] possession by swallowing notes and damaging videotapes" in order not to incriminate those who had helped them.
The two claim they "wanted to raise awareness about the harsh reality" facing "North Korean defectors who, because of their illegal status in China, live in terror of being sent back to their homeland."
"We regret if any of our actions, including the high-profile nature of our confinement, has led to increased scrutiny of activists and North Koreans living along the border," Ling and Lee add.
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