No sympathy for journalists captured by North Korea


By Joe Galli

In Euna Lee’s book “The World is Bigger Now,” she recounts her experience of being captured in North Korea while trying to film a documentary on North Korean refugees. The book is also on the CSUN Journalism Department’s suggested reading list and some classes have it as mandatory reading.

Why they picked a book about a completely irresponsible reporter acting without common sense as an example for journalism students, I’ll never know.  I have never read a book that made me so mad.

The first thing that really came across to me is this woman is a complete fool.  She was reckless, unprepared and apparently intended to share the plight of these refugees without respecting the risk.  She knew she was breaking international laws, crossing into a country  technically still at war with South Korea, carrying evidence of these refugees when she crossed the border and that there were armed guards on the other side.

What made me angriest was  when she and her colleagues were on the plane and they joked about having a backstory if they got caught.

How could she not think getting caught was a potential reality? That should have been a primary concern that should have been discussed, ironed out, and memorized before ever getting on the plane.

And if you are going to lie about being college students, have some fake student identification with you and don’t take incriminating evidence of interviews with refugees with you across the border.

In my opinion, the North Korean’s treated her very well.  From what she described in the book, she could have faced a life of torture, imprisonment and possible execution. She is lucky to only have served 140 days in a guest house with the ability to write, read, eat well, and have some phone contact with her sister, husband and daughter.

The interrogations she endured were a necessary part of the process when you capture someone in the middle of an illegal act. As far as being caught and convicted as a spy she got the royal treatment by comparison to what North Korea might do to its own people.

Another thing you never really hear about is what the United States government had to give or do for North Korea just to get her released.  I wonder what she cost the America tax payer.

I would do anything to work on a story of this magnitude.  I would have even crossed the border to get the shots they were looking for, but I have a lot less to lose.  I’m just coming out of college, I’m not married, I have no children, and little debt to be absorbed by my family if the worst were to happen to me.

Did she think to get a life insurance policy before she went on this mission? If she didn’t, it proves that either she really didn’t have her family’s financial security in mind or she had no grasp of the magnitude of her subject matter.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but I didn’t get that from her in the book.  She only wrote of her regrets like having phone numbers in the pocket of her jacket and having videotapes that showed their guide and interviews with refugees.  But she never thought about what she should have done differently and that’s all I could focus on.