Laura Ling’s (凌志美) sister says the two US journalists briefly touched North Korean soil before they were captured and detained for months in the communist country.
“She said that it was maybe 30 seconds and then everything got chaotic. It’s a very powerful story, and she does want to share it,” Lisa Ling told CNN on Thursday.
A day after the reporters returned from Pyongyang on a private plane, Lisa Ling said her sister is still weak, exhausted and emotional.
Lisa Ling described how her sister clings to her family after months of isolation. She said she even went to a doctor’s appointment with her sister, just to keep her company.
Lisa Ling said Euna Lee’s husband told her that his four-year-old daughter, Hana, spent all day following Lee around the house from room to room. At one point during her detention, Lee called and left a voicemail message saying how much she loved her daughter, Lisa Ling said.
“They could play it for Hana all the time. Of all of us, little Hana had the most confidence that she would be seeing her mom soon,” Lisa Ling said.
Laura Ling told her family she was treated humanely, but meals were meager and her phone calls were monitored, Lisa Ling said.
“She had two guards in her room at all times, morning and night.”
And even though they couldn’t speak to her, somehow they developed a strange sort of kinship, Lisa Ling said.
“She had some really lovely things to say about the people who were watching over her,” she said.
The reporter passed her time in captivity reading, walking circles around her cell for exercise and planning when she would wash her hair, because water service was intermittent, Lisa Ling said.
At Laura Ling’s house on a quiet residential street in the San Fernando Valley, a man who identified himself as her brother-in-law came to the door and said politely that she wasn’t ready to speak about her ordeal yet.
Lisa Ling said her sister plans to write an editorial explaining what happened and how she was captured.
At the modest, two-story apartment building on the edge of Koreatown where Lee lives with her family, police cleared about a dozen reporters and photographers away from the driveway so she and her family could pull their car out. The three then drove away without speaking to reporters.
Lee, who sat in the front passenger seat, looked down and didn’t make eye contact with the photographers, most of whom were from Korean-language media outlets.
Minutes after they drove away, a delivery service left a fruit basket for them.
Lee and Ling, reporters for former vice president Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV, were working on a story about the trafficking of women when they were arrested in March. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being convicted of illegally entering North Korea.
Both were pardoned following talks between Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. They arrived at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport at dawn on Wednesday for a jubilant reunion with family and friends.
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