Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Clinton's the Don

Well done to Bill Clinton for securing the release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, arrested and held for 58 days in North Korea for apparently straying into the country while reporting from the Chinese side of the boarder.

Strange as that seems, it is apparently quite easy to cross the boarder unintentionally. I have relatives from the Chinese side who say that as the Yalu River (or Amnok, depending on which country you are on) is no more than 3 metres deep and is heavily silted with numerous islands and sandbars, people cross quite regularly on foot or flat boat despite there being only one official bridge - the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge (pictured from the Chinese side). Boats can be easily hired on the Chinese side of the boarder and tourists regularly do so in order to move halfway into the river to catch a glimpse of North Korean civilians on the other bank.

Most of the human traffic comes from the Korean side as individuals attempt to buy what they can from the numerous Chinese traders in the boarder city of Dandong. Trains and lorries, meanwhile, carry half of North Korea's exports to China through the same city.

There has been some criticism of the American media for failing to report regularly on the fate of the two journalists in a way that would have been unthinkable had they been captured in Iraq or elsewhere. The two were originally sentenced to 12 years hard labour for entering the country illegally.

Korean-American academic and church leader Dr. Soong-Chan Rah has, at times, appeared a lone voice in highlighting the plight of the missing Americans through his blog and daily twitter updates.

President Clinton, meanwhile, will have an additional topic for his after-dinner speeches now as he becomes one of the few westerners on the planet to have seen, yet alone met the enigmatic North Korean President Kim Jong-il.

For the definitive map on where everything is in North Korea, visit North Korea Uncovered.

Photo Credit, Prince Roy.

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