I am very concerned about Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the American journalists for Current TV who just got sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean labor camp. It’s alarming and terrible. I could easily see myself in their position. You are trying to do your job and then you get caught up in something huge and unstoppable.
What’s so messed up about this particular situation is that because they are Asian American, I worry that North Korea feels less guilty about punishing them. They wouldn’t ever have the courage to do this to white journalists, especially white male journalists. Since Lee and Ling look like their own, they feel they can treat them like their own – and in North Korea, this is not a good thing. And since Asian Americans are not as easily defined as “American” I’m afraid that these two will get lost in the shuffle. It’s the strange rootless consequence of Asian American identity played out to the worst possible conclusion. Could you imagine the same thing happening to Anthony Bourdain? He could have negotiated his way out with a bottle of Crown Royal and some Marlboro reds. If Andrew Zimmern went there to eat live octopus and was nabbed by Kim Jong Il, he’d be free before the tentacles stopped wiggling in his mouth.
But this is a serious situation. I am not sure if people see Euna Lee and Laura Ling as American, but they are just as American as the notion of freedom of speech. Let my people go!