Human bargaining chips ?

lingBarack Obama says he’s “deeply concerned”  about the jailing of two American journalists in North Korea.

Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been given 12 years for  “hostile acts”  and illegal entry from China.

Our correspondent in Seoul says the women could be used as “bargaining chips” to win concessions from Washington – that could mean face-to-face talks or humanitarian aid.

The UN is considering tightening sanctions against Pyongyang and Hilary Clinton talks about re instating North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

What should the U.S do about the women ?  Isn’t every country powerless against North Korea ?

25 Responses to “Human bargaining chips ?”

  1. June 8, 2009 at 18:11

    We need more than “deep concern” in this situation. This is just another slap in the face of America and other countries by North Korea. If we continue to play into the hand of North Korea we are powerless to them.

    It is time to stand up against N. Korea even if that means war. They will continue to do whatever they want until someone stands against them and unfourtunatly that means America will probably be leading the way

  2. June 8, 2009 at 18:23

    Now, hang on a second. Would this have been news if these journalists were not Americans?

    • June 8, 2009 at 18:40

      to answer your question probably not. does that mean that is the way it should be? I don’t think it should be this way but unfourtunatly that is the way the world media is. If these two are the only ones being mentioned imagine how many members of the media from other countries are being held without widespread media attention.

      The point is that North Korea has no regard for people no matter their nationality and something needs to be done about it and I do not think that talking and negotiations is what needs to be done.

      Anthony in Reno,NV

  3. 4 Mark Sandell
    June 8, 2009 at 18:38

    Make your own judgement Israel, i can’t speak for the rest of the media (or the BBC) but two people being arrested, and tried in secret in what many people see as one of the most oppressive regimes in the world would attract attention no matter their nationality, but i may be wrong.

    June 8, 2009 at 18:41


    I do not know whether it is true about bargaining chips, but if it is, shame on North Korea …. but?

    It is a game of chess by the armed club and the pawns are handy but the outcome unknown. On the other hand we are thrown back to the games of Plato’s Dialogues. Listen to Socrates on either side of the table. What is the rule of law and fairness? Don’t you respect the rule of law? An’t we at war with each other and everyone is a spy and a foe? After a all we are only seperated by a national border. Being a rogue is an old hat on my scalp. Can we go back to the negotiation tables?

    This kind of games will require the US president to open the issue in a surgical manner and ask like the rest of us; what went wrong and who introduced rot in the soup plate?

    Finally, the amassing of arms and posturing will only enbolden the recklessness of US citizen and its regional allies to issue statements or do actions that will kill the meaningful dialogue and resort to the foolish Socratic statements we see above that did not prevent the fall of Ancient Greece. Anyhow, all is not lost and nobody has been hunged; Moscow and Beijing ould help though and the jailing of these two might herald the beginning of the end of these threats and waste of resources.

    Don’t get me wrong. We in Africa live in fear of nuclear arms too.

  5. 6 Vijay
    June 8, 2009 at 19:05

    I don’t think they are bargaining chips,they will be taught a lesson ,made an example of,just to deter investigative reporters or documentary film makers.

    May be they were spies posing as film makers just to test N.Korean border defences.

  6. 7 Brando from Botswana
    June 8, 2009 at 19:14

    President Kim Jong and his regime need Jesus! or Dr Phill they seem so hellbent on making the world an unstable place ,I bet they wake up every morning and say mmh what shall we do today to cause havoc ,kim jong is just a mean little Badly dressed villain with a terrible Haircut,I wouldn’t put it past North Korea to pull a stunt like trying to use the journalists as human barging Chips,now would be a great time to sanction them during the recession ,the rest of us are busy working on reducing global warming and they are testing Nuclear weapons,we should all be very concerned .

  7. 8 Colleen in US
    June 8, 2009 at 19:15

    This issue puts the US President between a rock and a hard place. If he gives in to N.K for an exchange for these ladies; then they know that they the administation is putty in their hands. We teach others how to treat us by our reactions to their activities.

    However, if he doesn’t do anything to bring these ladies home; he would seem callous and ‘unpatriotic’.

    So, what were they doing there? Did they enter illegally? if so, why? Reporters who enter foreign countries without permission – especially those that are considered ‘hostile’ to some degree – know what the risks are. Their capture and punishment may be unfair to us, but if you choose to do journalism from a hostil country – you know the dangers and your choices are your own responsibility.
    If the ladies were there at the insistance of their employers, or the government – then, yes; the government or employer would have a responsibility to work to bring them back.

    Here’s another perspective – how do you think the natives in the countries of those we hold imprisoned for potential crimes feel about us? If we were holding someone from Poland, or India, or Russia, or anywhere else – because of a crime within and against our country; we would feel it our right to put them through a trial and enact punishment.
    That is not in defense of N.K. – as it is highly likely that this situation is part of their strong-arming tactics. However, in order to better understand how to proceed; one needs to look at things from all sides and see what the others see.

    The wisest person is the one who knows just how much they don’t know. (then, searches for that knowledge.)

    • 9 Peter SC
      June 9, 2009 at 13:12

      Instead of Acting like a bully , President Obama should plea for clemency. It might work. After all they did commit a crime against DPRK

  8. 10 Colleen in US
    June 8, 2009 at 19:19


    I’m sure this would have been news whether it was Americans or any other country that is trying to get N.K to disarm. Afterall, the article draws the a connection between their sentencing and how it will affect negotiations with N.K. to stop their bomb testing and armament. The bombs haven’t just been concerns of the US; but of several other nations as well – including some in Europe, Asia, and countries in other regions.

  9. June 8, 2009 at 20:01

    Salaam my dearest Mark. I view this saddening and shocking story as another slap in the face of “freedom of journalism” which I strongly believe in… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  10. June 8, 2009 at 20:20

    Here we go again. Two american journalist enter a foreign country which is hostile to the US without permission and the world is expected to hold their breadths until they are rescued. Here is what i think, if those two realy crossed the border illegaly( and am sure they did in the name of ‘investigative journalism’) they should face the full extend of the law in this case 12 yrs. Needless to say there are plenty of foreign journalist held by USA authorities who’s talking about them?

  11. 13 Anthony
    June 8, 2009 at 20:27

    First off, they DID enter N.K. illegaly right, why would anyone in their right mind do that?

    Second, this was just Kim Jong puffing his chest. He’s trying to show he’s a tuff guy.

    Third, yes, they shouldn’t be held, and I think it’s funny (well, not really) that we attacked Iraq when these crazy N.K. are around.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    P.S. @ Israel Ambe Ayongwa
    I think the question is, would Chinese reporters have been treated the same way?

  12. 14 VictorK
    June 8, 2009 at 20:55

    Guantanamo & extraordinary rendition don’t help the US government’s moral authority with this case.

    Like Colleen, I wonder how these two managed to get themselves captured (according to one report they were filming on the Chinese-Korean border, and carried on filming despite warnings from North Korean border guards). In addition, if – like their Iranian-American counterpart earlier this year – they were unwise enough to go to a hostile country as dual nationals of both the US and the country, then they have little to complain about now.

    @Israel: you’re right. People are held indefinitely and regularly tried in secret all over the world without the media usually making a fuss. Some African prisons are notorious for holding innocent people for years with no trial – and often no food either. The Chinese secretly tried and then executed a businessman who’d been responsible for adulterating baby food. The Western media reported the judicial murder of this non-American (for something that probably wasn’t even a capital offence in China) without any sign of moral outrage, just as something that might restore confidence in the market for Chinese products!

  13. 15 Roberto
    June 8, 2009 at 21:01

    RE “” The UN is considering tightening sanctions against Pyongyang and Hilary Clinton talks “”

    ————– Thought it well established that the sanctions only hurt the common people, not the elite and their storm troopers.

    Hillary is gonna be yakking up about anything anyway, so that means nothing. The North Korean government has proven to be effective in leveraging and otherwise outmaneuvering the global powers to blackmail and threaten them in spite of producing no products for sale but nuclear and missile technology..

    Short of a major war or a revolution, there is nothing that can be done but walk softly and carry a big stick as Teddy Roosevelt used to do.

    It is very disturbing to hear the young ladies were sentenced to hard labour, but such were their chances when they decided to sneak into the country. The world doesn’t need any more stories of misery, it needs 100% vigilance until the North decides to join the human race.

  14. 16 Peter in Jamaica
    June 8, 2009 at 21:23

    Well Anthony Mendoza, if you really believe what you just wrote then lets hear your suggestion? or do you think the US should just rush in like they did in 1950 in Korea? or in 1959 in Vietnam or Iraq in 2003? in every case the US suffered heavy losses and to what end?in Korea some 50,000, Vietnam, 58,000 with another 9, 000 suicides over five years as a direct result after the war was over and as for Iraq, 4,300 and counting.
    Its people like you that always puts the rest of us, the innocent and these brave soldiers , in harms way all the time.
    We have history in front of us but still make the same mistake and then turn around and act surprised about the result and if we leave it up to people like you, we’d do it again.
    Plus they have Nuclear capabilities now. They may not be able to shoot a Nuclear bomb over to the US but i don’t think they have any reservation in using it in their own back yard and think nothing about it or selling it to other terrorist groups to use. SO in all your wisdom, what do you suggest Obama do?

  15. 17 Thomas Murray
    June 8, 2009 at 22:32

    I was just about to suggest a similar debate topic via e-mail. But this one’s got me vetched.

    I mean, North Korea has every right to prosecute someone for violating their borders, but the punishment — far from fitting the crime — is politcally provocative.

    Kim Jong Il’s detonating A-bombs like every other week, he’s lauching missiles over Japan, now his court’s handed down a virtual death sentence to two Asian-American women who simply wandered too far across a dry river bed.

    Does Jong Il actually WANT all of Asia to gang up and invade his country? Do they have any idea how itchy a global recession makes everybody’s trigger fingers?

    I seriously don’t know what to make of this behavior. Is there anyone out there who has some insight on this?

    You have a major point, Colleen in the US. But a prisoner exchange is not unprecedented, and may be the only way to resolve this.

    But writing that Kim Jong Il is a “badly dressed villain with a terrible haircut” was a bridge too far, Brando from Botswana. I mean, what’s wrong with his haircut?

    –Bothered and Bewildered in Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  16. June 9, 2009 at 11:01

    Roxana Saberi all over again. “Sorry, it was a mistake.” Quashed sentence. “National anthem saved us,” fine, but they should compile a proper article while inside, to be published upon release.

  17. 19 Allison
    June 9, 2009 at 12:39

    From what I understand the territory was not clearly marked between China and North Korea. This wasn’t a case of intention that Lee and Ling went into North Korea it was a clear accident. There was no harm meant. So if that was the only mis-hap made was to walk onto North Korea land then giving them a 12 year sentence is clearly a case of them being used for Pawns. Being used as a pawn between North Korea and US, is in-humain. These woman cannot resolve the issue, so intervention should only be fair.

  18. 20 Anthony
    June 9, 2009 at 15:53

    @ Anthony Mendoza

    Are you sure your name isn’t Anthony Cheney or Anthony Rumsfeld, because that’s where it sounds like you’re coming from.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  19. 21 Peter SC
    June 9, 2009 at 15:55

    During the Clinton era an ally and friendly country to the US was leaned on , threatened and called uncivilised when an American boy was prosecuted in a fair trial for wanton vandalism which carries a mandatory whipping with a cane.
    To the locals who got whipped , nobody protested.
    In the end he was caned , I was told , given 2 token stroke that made him giggled.
    There is no law for Americans. Nothing to surprise anyone.

  20. 22 globalcomedy
    June 9, 2009 at 16:16

    Of course they’re being used as bargaining chips. What better way to keep world attention focused on North Korea?

    But to everyone that thinks the States should just bomb the hell out of them to rescue these women, reality check. The U.S. is fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. How the hell are they supposed to now attack North Korea? Stop the right wing talking points and think for a change.

  21. June 9, 2009 at 18:18

    What do you all suppose we do? Just let N.K. push people around and do whatever they want? I don’t like the idea of war but our hand is being forced.

    @ Peter in Jamaica

    I don’t have a suggestion I just know that ‘negotiation’ won’t work. It would be like sitting down with a 5 year old and trying to make a compromise with him… no matter what you offer he wants what he wants. I am fully aware of the casualtys of our past wars and I would like to avoid that in N.K. and would want to avoid a war as much as possible but we cannot sit by and let this crazy dictator do what ever he wants to. something has to be done, what that is I do not know. I wish I knew the magic answer but unfourtunatly all we can do is share our opinions.

    Anthony in Reno, NV

  22. 24 Tom K in Mpls
    June 9, 2009 at 19:35

    Lame, no country is nice. They all have needs and people are a resource no matter where they come from. How do you treat the resources of your life? I’m guessing the decisionis based on current needs, availability and cost. Why should any country be any different? We can hope for and promote the growth and recycling of resources, but sometimes other options work better.

  23. 25 Colleen in US
    June 9, 2009 at 20:46

    I remember the vandalism and subsequent caning punishment. Though I was not aware of the ‘toekn lashes’. However, I recall this individuals father saying that his son was deserving of whatever punishment that that particular government saw fit to implement.

    Using Clinton-era as a time reference assumes that his administration was somehow involved in the event.

    Something that many people fail to understand; we don’t live in a bubble and US laws do not apply outside of US borders. People doing things that they shouldn’t; deserve to experience the consequences of their choices.

    Actually, if the US had more strict punishments on his guilty – they might actually reduce the number of crimes. Some people in our prisons have more than the working class poor: they can get a college degree for free, they get their smokes and recreation time, some of the food in some of those prisons is actually better than what people out here – working – can afford to get.

    If you want to dissuade people from committing crimes; then you HAVE to make the punishment outweigh the crime. It doesn’t matter what country you are from; do the crime, do the time…

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