Free Euna and Laura

UPDATE: on August 5, 2009, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were released from North Korean custody. while i was flying over to Japan, Euna and Laura were flying home to the US! yihaaaa!!! WELCOME HOME EUNA AND LAURA!!!

thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who prayed, sent postcards, attended vigils, mass emailed friends and showed your support in various ways for journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. as the great Martin Luther King said, "Free at last!"

see their thank you video here

UPDATE: Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison. "The North's Central Court tried American TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee during proceedings running from last Thursday to Monday and found them guilty of a "grave crime" against the nation, and of illegally crossing into North Korea, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency said."

we now must work together to gain their early release.

On June 3, 2009, people across the nation gathered together at eight vigils to raise awareness and call for the release of two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling. this is one of the most important stories i have reported on thus far. together, we can bring them home. this is my story...

Hundreds March for Detained Journalists
June 3, 2009

Santa Monica, CA - There was thunder and lighting just hours before a candlelight vigil was set to begin to raise awareness for two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who have been detained in North Korea since march 17th. Organizers were worried that mother nature might put a damper on what was one of eight vigils planned across the country.

The rain didn’t come, but the people did.

More than 500 supporters packed themselves in like sardines at Wokcano’s outdoor plaza and overflowed up to the second floor balcony. Emcee Welly Yang had to ask twice for everyone to squeeze in to let in more people that were waiting outside.

Members of the Korean Veterans Association were on hand, some in full uniform. Other supporters bore signs that read “Bring them home” and “We miss you”.

Just hours after the vigil had started, the American journalists were scheduled to go on trial on charges of illegally crossing the border and unspecified “hostile acts”. The pair had traveled to China to do a story on refugees when they were detained by North Korean guards at the China and North Korea border.

Lisa Ling, Laura’s sister and a well-respected journalist herself, fought back tears as she spoke personally about her sister and Euna. “My sister is strong, but there is nothing hostile about her. Euna is the mother of the most angelic 4-year-old daughter, hardly a threatening character.”

Kelly Hu read a message from Roxanna Saberi, another journalist who was convicted on charges of spying in Iran, but was released last month after serving only four months of an eight-year sentence in an Iranian prison. Saberi wrote, “Laura and Euna, I pray that you remain strong and know that neither your families nor you are alone. I hope that a way will be found to return both of you to your families as soon as possible.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper conducted a live interview with Lisa Ling, Iain Clayton, Laura’s husband and Michael Saldate, Euna’s husband, via satellite. During the interview, supporters held their candles and placards high for the cameras to see in order to send a powerful message of love and support. Their hope was that the broadcast would be seen, not only by the American people, but also the North Koreans.

Grace Su of Santa Monica came to the vigil “to really support the families and really be here to show the collective support so that the media can see it, so that the US government would see it, that the North Korean government would see it and hopefully the verdict will be something positive and the girls will return home safely.” A sentiment felt by many.

From the beginning, the family had remained quiet due to the sensitive nature of the events and hoped the government could use diplomacy to bring the reporters home. But last week, Lisa got an unexpected phone call from Laura. Lisa said Laura’s voice was trembling as they spoke for roughly four minutes. “Li, it’s me,” Laura said, “I need your help.”

With tensions rising from North Korea’s renewed nuclear and missile testing, the families decided they needed to speak out. During that phone call, Laura said that the only hope that she and Euna had to be released was for both governments to talk to each other. Currently, North Korea and the United States do not have a diplomatic relationship and the only way they communicate is through a third neutral country.

By speaking out, the families hope that the two governments would keep this separate from the larger geo-political issues. In a statement released to the press the family appealed to both governments, “We hope that our two countries can come together to secure the expeditious release of Laura and Euna on humanitarian grounds.”

Vigils were already being planned to call for the release of Lee and Ling when the families decided to go public. Birmingham, Chicago, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, DC were all joining together to raise awareness to the journalist’s plight. Sacramento jumped on board this past Tuesday.

With candles still burning, the gathering marched through the streets of Santa Monica to Third Street Promenade. There was no chanting, there were no bullhorns, but they caught the attention of people on the street with the rhythmic beating drums of Bombu Taiko leading the way. And the group of followers grew.

Their final destination was a dinosaur fountain near Wilshire Boulevard. The thunderous sounds of Yukari Taiko filled the night air with heart pounding beats that drowned out the sound of the spewing fountain. It all seemed a bit metaphorical. In this day and age of high tech gadgets and instant messaging, our countries seem to be stuck in prehistoric times of one country trying to outdo another, when perhaps the simple solution would be to pick up the phone and have a dialogue.

Lisa Ling was touched by the overwhelming outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike. “Our families have been just so surprised but moved by how many people came out to support Laura and Euna. This is a total grassroots effort that was ignited by Facebook.”

People across the nation joined together in a unified show of support for two American journalists who just wanted to tell a story, but instead became the story themselves. Lisa ended her message with “As they stand in that courtroom, alone and afraid, we thank YOU for standing here behind them and not letting their voices go unheard.”

As of press time, no official word had been reported from North Korea regarding the fate of Lee and Ling.

for the latest information, check out the Bring Laura and Euna Home website or on Facebook.

to see more pictures, you can watch or click on the slideshow below.

Lee Ling Vigil - Images by darrell miho