Someone who is smarter than me (and who shall remain nameless) forwarded a link to an L.A. Times op-ed written by Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two journalists who were imprisoned in North Korea and released last month.
Their piece, this smart kid suggested, serves as a good wake-up call for the rest of us: Not necessarily Ling and Lee’s own story of being captured on a frozen river that divides China from North Korea and thrown into jail, but the story they were trying to cover. It’s a story that is ultimately all about choices — or lack of same.
Excerpts from their op-ed:
We had traveled to the area to document a grim story of human trafficking for Current TV. During the previous week, we had met and interviewed several North Korean defectors — women who had fled poverty and repression in their homeland, only to find themselves living in a bleak limbo in China. Some had, out of desperation, found work in the online sex industry; others had been forced into arranged marriages….
Our motivations for covering this story were many. First and foremost, we believe that journalists have a responsibility to shine light in dark places, to give voice to those who are too often silenced and ignored. One of us, Euna, is a devout Christian whose faith infused her interest in the story. The other, Laura, has reported on the exploitation of women around the world for years. We wanted to raise awareness about the harsh reality facing these North Korean defectors who, because of their illegal status in China, live in terror of being sent back to their homeland…
Most of the North Koreans we spoke with said they were fleeing poverty and food shortages. One girl in her early 20s said she had been told she could find work in the computer industry in China. After being smuggled across the Tumen River, she found herself working with computers, but not in the way she had expected. She became one of a growing number of North Korean women who are being used as Internet sex workers, undressing for online clients on streaming video. Some defectors appeared more nervous about being interviewed than others. But they all agreed that their lives in China, while stark, were better than what they had left behind in North Korea.
Are you awake now? As the forementioned smart girl wrote in her email:
The underlying story is a good wake up call to us: Better to be an internet sex worker than live in North Korea where they have no choices. That’s what faces them — and here we are whining about doctor vs lawyer vs mother?