It's truly heartening to see Laura Ling and Euna Lee back safely on American soil. But the questions about the Current TV journalists will soon turn beyond the sentimental now that they're out of harm's way. What, exactly, happened?
The full story has never been told. Current TV and its staff kept a vigilant silence in the interest of protecting Ling and Lee's safety, and the press avoided aggressive coverage over the same concerns.
But some issues have bubbled to the surface. A Los Angeles-area blogger named Babamoto has taken two in-depth looks at Mitchell Koss, the Current TV producer and cameraman who managed to flee back to China at the border crossing where Ling and Lee were captured.
Koss, Babamo writes on Epicanthus.net, shephered the journalism careers of emotive CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and of View co-host Lisa Ling from their early 20s. Lisa Ling's sister Laura and fellow reporter Euna Lee would have fit neatly into Koss' stable of "young, attractive and aggressive... 'revolutionary punks.'"
But Babamo implies their aggression and risk-taking in North Korea might have been unnecessary:
Along with the obligatory gunfire, bomb blasts, drug labs and poisonous reptiles, there are homages to poverty, squalor, hunger and human suffering...Many times, Koss seems to put [reporters] in harm's way just for the heck of it on stories that had been covered before by others.
Ling and Lee's prior work certainly contained its share of fireworks. And the North Korean refugee story had been done before — by BBC, Frontline, CNN's Christiane Amanpour and National Geographic, among others, according to Babamoto. Current's Korean derring-do came as the troubled TV network was trying, against Wall Street sentiment, to mount an IPO (it was canceled shortly after Ling and Lee's capture).
Like others at Current TV, Koss has until now remained silent on the incident. Now that his reporters are free, he could shed light on the purpose of their reporting, as well as answer questions about where they were, exactly, when they were caught, and how he thinks it came to pass.
According to research by the Korea-focused website ROK Drop and its commenters, there are seven bridges between North Korea and China where the reporters might have been captured, assuming they were in fact nabbed on the Tumen River
It's not clear why they would have been on such a bridge; speculation has centered on whether the translator they'd hired in China was in cahoots with the North Koreans and misled the reporters about their location or whether they were shooting footage on what they presumed to be the Chinese side of the bridge when North Korea soldiers rushed them. One ROK Drop commenter even noted it's possible to bribe one's way across the border, but since cameras usually aren't allowed it's not clear why two journalists and a cameraman/producer would attempt this.
Only Current TV knows what's happened. Now that its journalists are, thankfully, safe, it can tell what it knows — or let others go digging for it.