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Al Gore seeks release of Americans

Mar 21,2009
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has asked United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for help in obtaining the release of two journalists being held by North Korea. The two work for Current TV, an organization co-founded by Gore in 2005.

CNN reported yesterday it’s not immediately clear what Clinton can do.

The United States is also asking Beijing for help, and China said it is investigating, according to CNN.

The journalists, Chinese-American Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee, were captured Tuesday while filming North Korea near the China-North Korea border on the Tumen River, various sources said Thursday.

Their Chinese guide, who is ethnically Korean, was also detained, but the third member of the filming crew, Mitch Koss, was believed to be under the protection of the U.S. Embassy in China.

The U.S. State Department yesterday, Korean time, remained tight-lipped about the situation.

“When you have two American citizens who are being held against their will, we want to try to find out all the facts and try to gain their release,” said department spokesman Robert Wood.

The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea. The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang acts as the contact point for the American officials.

Current TV’s Internet homepage led with the arrest story late Thursday night, Korean time, but it was pulled hours later. Editors at Current TV told CNN and other news outlets that they would not comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists - a New York-based nonprofit body that promotes press freedom and the safety of journalists - pushed for the rapid release of the Americans.

Bob Dietz, the agency’s Asia program coordinator, said, “We call on all sides to work quickly for the release of these two reporters and their assistant.”

American officials were trying to determine where the journalists were when they were detained, according to CNN.

The journalists were reportedly standing on a frozen Tumen River, which blurred the border mark.

The river, which flows between North Korea and China on the northeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, is a frequent escape route for refugees.

Lee is a film and video editor at Current TV. She has edited and directed TV shows and films, including the Emmy-nominated show “Stir.”

Ling, 32, is a sister of Lisa Ling, a former co-host of the ABC talk show “The View.”

Ling’s father, Douglas, told Sacramento-based news Web site KCRA 3 that though he is worried, he is used to his “adventurous” daughter.

“I worry quite a bit. But I’m not losing any sleep over it,” the senior Ling said, “because I’m more or less used to it.”

Laura Ling has previously reported on drug wars in Mexico and on native tribes in Brazil.


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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