North Korea detains two US journalists (Lead)

March 19th, 2009 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, March 19 (DPA) North Korean authorities have detained two US journalists at the border with China, news reports said Thursday.
The two women who work for US-based media were detained this week by North Korean border guards while they were filming at the Stalinist state’s border with China, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the New York Times said.

“Two reporters working for US internet news media, including a Korean-American, were detained by North Korean authorities earlier this week, and they remain in custody there,” Yonhap quoted an unidentified diplomatic source as saying.

The New York Times quoted sources in Seoul as saying the journalists worked for Current TV, a cable network founded by former US vice president Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt.

The newspaper identified the detained journalists as Laura Ling, a Chinese-American, and Euna Lee, a Korean-American. A Korean-Chinese guide was detained with them Tuesday morning, it said.

A South Korean reporter told the newspaper he met the US journalists in Seoul before they left for China last week.

It said South Korean Christian pastor Chun Ki Won helped the journalists arrange their trip to China and reported that North Korean troops detained at least three people.

Chun told the newspaper he spoke to the US journalists early Tuesday, when they told him they were reporting on North Korean refugees in China.

“They told me that they completed what they went to China for, they completed their assignment,” the newspaper quoted Chun as saying.

“I warned them against getting too close to the border,” he said. “I suspect that they got too ambitious.”

The newspaper said it remained unclear if North Korean authorities had also detained another member of the Current TV team.

Yonhap said the journalists were arrested “after accidentally crossing into North Korea”, contradicting earlier reports that North Korean border guards crossed into Chinese territory and nabbed the journalists.

Other South Korean media reports said the US journalists had been filming from across either the Tumen River or the Yalu River, which form eastern and western sections of the 1,300-km border between the two countries.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China was still unable to confirm if the incident took place on the Chinese or North Korean side of the border.

“The Chinese government is investigating what happened to the two American citizens on the border between China and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea),” Qin told reporters in a brief comment.

The US embassies in Seoul and Beijing declined to comment on the reports, saying the matter would be handled by the State Department in Washington.

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