July 8th, 2009
10:16 PM ET

Sister hears from detained journalist in North Korea

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/08/art.lisa.ling.intv.jpg"%5D


After weeks of silence, the sister of one of the two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea finally got a phone call.

"It was only the first time I had heard her voice in weeks. ... I was so relieved but I feel so helpless," Lisa Ling, a CNN contributor, told affiliate KOVR in an interview Wednesday. "Because as an older sister, a best friend, a self-professed 'doer,' it's just difficult to know I cannot do anything to bring her home."

Ling said she spoke to her sister, Laura Ling, over the phone Tuesday night. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced in June to 12 years in prison on charges of illegally entering the country to conduct a smear campaign.

Lisa Ling is hoping the arrests will push the United States and the reclusive communist nation to engage in diplomatic talks.

"I know that our government has been working behind the scenes very hard trying to bring the girls back home," she said. But she added, "Our countries don't talk, and perhaps this could be a reason."

She said her sister "was very specific about the message that she was
communicating, and she said, 'Look, we violated North Korean law and we need our government to help us. We are sorry about everything that has happened, but we need diplomacy.' "

Ling said that without being able to look at her sister, it was difficult to tell how she was doing. She described that past few weeks as being engulfed in a "terrifying and deafening" silence.

The two detainees - who are reporters for California-based Current TV, a media venture of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore - were arrested while reporting on the border between North Korea and China.

The North's state media released a "detailed report" last month, saying that Ling and Lee entered the country illegally to record material for a "smear campaign" against the reclusive communist state.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States is seeking the immediate release of the two journalists on humanitarian grounds.

Filed under: 360º Follow • North Korea
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. johanna

    I am praying for both of them and their families. I cant imagine the frustration and fear they must feel. Trust in the Lord, and you shall not want. God bless those women and protect them from those fanatics.Evil ppl will be punished.

    July 9, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  2. Jen from MA

    Is the CNN policy to post only "appropriate" comments? If so, what is a blog but propaganda. Are you saying by your policy that you will decide what the public reads? Interesting.

    July 9, 2009 at 9:43 am |
  3. Barb

    Thank you for keeping us updated. I think about these women often.

    July 9, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  4. Kait

    I hope they can return home safely and soon, but the North Korean government is ruthless, and they broke the law.
    Why should they release them? because they are sorry? That is not going to fly with them. Our government needs to take more serious action to get them home, but bottom line is, they broke the law.

    July 9, 2009 at 8:09 am |
  5. Tonya

    I wish we knew more about what was going on "behind the scenes" or had clearer details as to release negotiations. It seems far and inbetween that we hear anything about this situation that I sometimes wonder if they are just forgotten about.

    July 9, 2009 at 6:29 am |
  6. Diana

    These two ladies were doing work for our country. It is so sad and annoying that their safety and release is not being talked more about in the media. I expect to hear daily about what is happening and how they will be released ...instead I have to listen to all this Michael Jackson drivel...
    Please let these two women go, please let them be safe and give them mercy because they were/are being brave on our behalf.

    July 9, 2009 at 6:25 am |
  7. Mercy Njari in Kenya

    My heart goes out to you Lisa & your family. I've known you from CNN and the Oprah Show. The two ladies are an asset to North Korea and I believe they'll be treated relatively well as the state makes political bargains with the US. You are in my prayers.

    July 9, 2009 at 6:11 am |
  8. Andy

    I am losing confidence everyday in the way that this administration is going. The principles that this Country once stood for is seeping out of its seams leaving a dissolute country. Ever since President Ronald Reagan the last truly great president this country has seen we have been going down hill. This down hill trend is now speeding up leaving me scared as to what is happening to the Country I love. Many have fought and died to keep the heritage of this great country strong, only to be losing it in the twenty first century. Have those who fought and gave their lives now died in vain? The constitution which has kept this country strong through the weaving of Christian principles making us a strong nation which once produce the majority of the world’s goods is now in jeopardy only to leave this country weak. When a country weakens it tends to collapse as a player on the worlds market in the same way that Roman fall. Is that the brand new direction of this country, I hope and pray that it is not.

    July 9, 2009 at 5:18 am |
  9. Spelunker

    I would like to tell Lisa Ling that I haven't forgotten Laura and Euna and would like to send them each a box of Girl Scout cookies via Mats Foyer, the Swedish ambassador to North Korea.

    July 9, 2009 at 2:40 am |
  10. kathy

    I cannot believe that this is still happening in 2009! When will it end? My heart & prayers are w/those women & the many others who are also "held" in "custody". This should not be happening at this time. How can we stop it?!

    July 9, 2009 at 2:33 am |
  11. Shekeita

    it's great that they got 2 keep in touch

    July 9, 2009 at 2:00 am |
  12. Shekeita

    i'm glad they got to keep in touch

    July 9, 2009 at 1:59 am |
  13. tammy young

    How did this chic get a gun so fast in order to kill Steve??? What about the controlled hand gun law....you know the Brady Law? Been on vacation just catching bits and pieces of this story...please fill me in...

    July 9, 2009 at 1:48 am |
  14. Fran

    I was born in 1960 – grew up in England, moved to Canada in the 80's then finally now live in the US. I have no memory of music and pop without Michael Jackson being a part of it. I was never a die hard fan or anything, but always enjoyed all of MJ's songs and especially enjoyed watching his sensational music videos – such an incredible dancer too! To be honest I have been overcome with sadness and this has this has completely taken me by suprise. I could not stop sobbing last night and this morning watching TV coverage. I believe that due to my age, I'm feeling as if a part of my life has just gone. Also my sadness is directed towards the media and how terribly sad that only now after Michael Jackson's passing are they praising him, for his parenthood, charitable deeds, sheer natural talent when the press could only criticise and go

    July 9, 2009 at 1:44 am |
  15. Solic

    Sorry Anderson, I just want to say this because Cafferty do not have room for responds in his website. Tuesday when Micheal Jackson's funeral was going on Cafferty told one of your journalist who was anchoring the show that there were other news that is going and that "we should move on." I was glad to hear Wolff say, "ghere is always tomorrow." Cafferty was not too happy about that as one can tell in his grunt.

    Anyway, today I said, let me look at this guy's website and what was the urgency that he wanted to move on. I found out that his website is nothing bu frivolous mombo jombo. Asking stupid questions about nothing . I think to myself, is this what we could have interrupted Micheal's funeral for? A bunch of silly nothings with a lot of innuendos etc. How can Gafferty live with himself. The nerve of this guy.

    July 9, 2009 at 1:30 am |
  16. cindy

    After grandmother, why not other family for guardian of children??

    July 9, 2009 at 1:26 am |
  17. Laurie

    When Paris spoke, I saw, if only for a few seconds, the life MJ had as a child. Paris wanted to say a few words about her daddy that has been taken from her, she was prob scared, terrified and numb, talking ifo all those people as never before. However, the first thing the family did (over 4 hands) was to adjust the microphone, tell her to move closer, speak up, put the mic down more, my GOD! let the child speak! But no, it had to be perfect! That was MJ's childhood RIGHT THERE! No wonder he had problems.

    July 9, 2009 at 1:16 am |
  18. Carrie from Alberta Canada

    It seems so unbelievable that this kind of injustice is happening in our world! I can't even begin to imagine the pain these families are facing. I think we really need to look at the bigger picture here, imagine how many others are suffering and have been tortured and detained for nothing. Something must be done on such a wider scale! Prayers to all.

    July 9, 2009 at 1:06 am |
  19. Gary from Canada

    Smear campaign my butt! This guy in charge of North Korea is in the same class as the leader of Iran. They are both fanatical idiots. They should both go and get a life.

    July 9, 2009 at 12:18 am |
  20. Kin TX

    Can you Please play the Entire 911 call to the Public and let them be the judge . Please listen very Clearly and Carefuly. Something does not sound Right with the 911 call. One minute the caller states that there are two bullets in the wall, and then later the caller states he have not been inside the condo.

    -Also did Kazemi have a key to the Condo to let herself in because a witness stated that the Escalade was there before Mcnair arrived

    -Where all the bullets shot out the gun, or were there any bullets left in the clip

    -Listen to the entire 911 call tennessean.com go to 911 call for Steve Mcnair

    July 9, 2009 at 12:01 am |
  21. Kurt Foster

    I prey every night for their safe return. Even though I do not know them or the families, they are in my thoughts.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:57 pm |
  22. Casey Kazemi

    Dear Anderson:
    As much as I liked M.J. and was raised with his music and enjoyed it,
    but let;s leave the guy in peace and talk about more serious topis going on in the world such as 150 killed in China , ( have you seen the pix!! ). and the upcoming huge demonstration in a few hours in Iran. It seems the media has stopped reporting everything except M.J.
    God bless his soul, I am sure he wouldn't have want this either.
    Please concetrate on more current events.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:46 pm |
  23. Nick

    Just saw your story on Palin...her reason for quitting .

    Costing the state too much.
    Costing my family too much...making us go bankrupkt so I can't run...run for what? President? You just quit the easiest govenor's job in the country.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  24. Maria from VA

    I too would like Lisa Ling and Euna Lee's family to know I have not forgotten about them. I am glad Lisa had a chance to talk with her sister but it doesn't resolve the issue. We desperately need North Korea to release the women. They don't deserve to be held over there!

    July 8, 2009 at 11:40 pm |
  25. Sarah

    It is a very sad situation and hopefully the two sisters will be reunited again soon. God Bless.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  26. Judith

    Erica Hill's English usage needs improving! Sorry to be such a grouch but it's embarrassing to hear bad English on the air.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  27. puggles

    Very interesting this suddenly allowing Laura Ling to contact her sister. Esp in light of the crazy turn of events over the last few months in North Korea. Really makes me wonder what is going on within that politburo.

    Note that for Roxanna Sabiri, the administration made a statement, but anything else was very under the table through 2nd and 3rd parties. China is even a little miffed with North Korea right now (and a bit distracted. Not even able to attend the G8. If Hu were at the G8, Obama might have been able to bring this up. But....)

    July 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  28. Judith

    Erica Hill's use English usage needs improving! Sorry to be such a grouch but it's embarrassing to hear bad English on the air.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  29. Danny

    Yeah... Uh... To whomever at CNN that is supposedly moderating these comments... Please remove the one from "Crystal." I mean no disrespect to Michael Jackson, but her comment has nothing to do with this article.

    I too have not forgotten about these journalists and pray for a quick resolution.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  30. vin

    Very nice blog!

    July 8, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  31. Jen from MA

    It is sad about the girls, however, the mother of a four year old child should not put herself in harms way for a story. Her priority should have been her child and husband not some story for Al Gore. Her little girl may be grown before she gets back. There is no greater responsibility for a woman than her child.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  32. Faheem

    Hopefully North Korea can come to it's senses and realize this is not the way to go about trying to garner the attention of the USA and let them go.

    July 8, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  33. Amy


    I hate to say this and sound like a snob..but I just heard you say in reference to Janet Jackson.."her and her sisters"...as my mother would say "it hurts me ears to hear you say that.!"...not only as a journalist but as a fellow WASP...the correct grammar is "SHE and her sisters." There is also the rule "I/he/she after the verb 'to be.'" No doubt you learned this in the good schools your mother sent you to!


    July 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm |
  34. Gloria

    Hi Erica-

    I think you're great and like your interaction with Anderson.

    Perhaps you were forgetting who you were talking with when you told Anderson that MJ's children didn't have schooling like "you and me".

    He's very humble, and I'm assuming it was good you didn't make exceptions for him. However, I imagine his schooling may have been different from yours and mine!


    July 8, 2009 at 11:11 pm |
  35. kristine

    My heart goes out to the family of the two women in Korea they don't belong there we send their people back why can't they do the same....

    July 8, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  36. Mary

    I'm very happy that Lisa was able to hear her sister's voice. As someone here said, just hearing her voice can really help. But, ultimately, they had to hang up and that must have been extremely difficult. I also agree that something MUST be done to free these women. Where's that great new president we voted into office now?
    What is being done about this????????????

    July 8, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  37. Linda

    Surely these journalists knew we didn't have diplomatic relations with N. Korea for years when they chose to do their story and endanger their lives when they either crossed the border or went close enough to be snatched. To expect our government to quickly establish diplomatic relations for their sake is a bit unrealistic. God knows the U.S. is trying and I think N. Korea shooting off missiles and making threats is a bit of a higher priority at the moment.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:59 pm |
  38. Debbie

    Will you be airing the Michael Jackson memorial again? I taped it, but it ran longer than I allowed for, and I missed more than half of the memorial. Thank you.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  39. Anthony Ching

    I would like to tell Lisa Ling that I haven't forgotten Laura Ling and Euna Lee and I will keep them in my prayers.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  40. Rita

    This is heart wrenching. Something MUST be done by the government of USA to free these poor women.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:46 pm |
  41. Janine from PA.

    I was wondering if everyone had forgotton about these two women. I'm sure she was told to say what she said. I'm glad there was contact. These women are hostages and need to be released! If they weren't being used for north koreas own political agenda, they would have just deported them.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  42. Crystal

    The Memorial Service touched my heart. When his daughter Paris got up there and spoke that got to me the most. My heart goes out to his family and the children. Never can say goodbye Micheal.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  43. khamsing

    it so sad, and hearthbreaking what happen to lisa ling sister.i grew up watching lisa ling report,since the 5th grade on channel one i felt like i know her all my life.i pray for her

    July 8, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  44. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    I am glad they finally have contact with each other.

    Just hearing someone's voice can help greatly.

    July 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm |