- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The two American television reporters imprisoned in North Korea for 4 1/2 months said Tuesday that they never intended to cross a frozen river into the communist country.

In an article posted on Current TV’s Web site, Laura Ling and Euna Lee said they hesitantly followed their guide when he beckoned them across the waterway and were “firmly back” on the Chinese side when North Korean border guards grabbed them on March 17.

“We didn’t spend more than a minute on North Korean soil before turning back, but it is a minute we deeply regret,” the journalists wrote. “To this day, we still don’t know if we were lured into a trap.”

The article provides the most thorough accounting to date of the circumstances surrounding the women’s incarceration. At the time of their arrest, the two were reporting a story for San Francisco-based Current TV about North Korean women who were forced into the sex trade or arranged marriages when they defected to China.

After their capture, Lee and Ling were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for trespassing and “hostile acts” against North Korea.

The country pardoned them last month after former president Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang on their behalf.

Lee and Ling said that while they were in detention, they swallowed their notes, damaged their videotapes and made other efforts to protect the identities of their sources.

The two said some parts of their captivity are too painful to revisit publicly, but that their experiences “pale when compared to the hardship facing so many people living in North Korea or as illegal immigrants in China.”

“We continue to cope with tremendous mental and emotional anguish, but we feel incredibly fortunate to be free and reunited with our families,” they said.

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