Catch and Release: Journalists on the North Korean-Chinese Border

By | January 20, 2012 | 2 Comments

Minus Current TV Producer Mitch Koss, Pastor Chun's drawer full of cell phones, and a hooting Chinese-Korean guide in a PLA overcoat, border jumpers and talnamja (脱南者) journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling analyze North Korean border guards for Glamour Magazine -- via One Free Korea

In the long aftermath of the Laura Ling-Euna Lee fiasco, may be featuring a couple of posts looking back at the memoirs of the two main participants, since notes on their decidedly mixed oeuvre exist, await typing and more thought (presuming that the thought precedes the typing).  The Oprah-NK demographic, after all, is one that we covet.  But for the time being, since recent scuttlebutt demands it, a bit of context on the notion of Western journalists being forbidden from borderlands trips, by Jende Huang, SinoNK’s Borderland Security Analyst. — Editor

21 Sept 2011 – A group of journalists with the JoongAng Ilbo’s soon to be launched cable channel are caught in a Chinese military zone in the Tumen river basin. They are carrying tourist visas, not press ones, and are arrested and charged with espionage.  Reporters Without Borders notes it is four journalists, one member of a Korean transport research center and a local guide.

29 Sept 2011 – According to the New York Times, it is three journalists from the JoongAng Ilbo, and two researchers from the Korea Transport Institute who are released after their week-long detention at a Chinese hotel.

23 Dec 2011 – The Chosun Ilbo reports that hotels on the Sino-DPRK border were searched by Chinese security officials in search of journalists. Though faced with minor harassment (temporary detainment, deletion of photos), no reporters were arrested.


  1. Why were they carrying tourist visas instead of press ones? Are tourists met with more leniency than press?

  2. Yes, Julianna, the tourist visas are less restrictve, particularly for sensitive places like Tibetan Automomous Region, etc. To a far, far lesser extent, North Korea has had this problem as well, journalists like Lisa Ling posing as “tourists” and making documentaries about all the “brainwashing” etc.