While looking for more information on the two US journalists recently sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea I decided to check and see if there was any updates on the official blog dedicated to freeing the two journalists. Interestingly enough a recent posting on the blog provides information about their capture I hadn’t read before:
It was a writer for @timesonline, Ben MacIntyre, who noted a few weeks ago that the drama currently unfolding in North Korea was one worthy of Shakespeare. To wit, “Mad king (Kim Jong-il) attempts to secure succession for favored son (Kim Jong-un) by a show of strength, unleashing chaos.”
Unfortunately, into that mad kingdom, just ahead of the chaos, wandered @Current journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. On Tuesday, March 17th, whether by accident or the trickery of a paid-off Chinese guide, they are alleged to have stepped across an invisible border line at a bridge crossing between China and North Korea. Harsh interrogations and two and a half months of solitary confinement followed, and now, after a brief trial, an absurd sentence of 12 years of hard labor for illegally crossing the border and an unspecified “grave crime.” [Liberate Laura and Euna]
This scenario makes sense to me. They walk out on to a bridge for whatever reason thinking as long as they stay on the Chinese side they are okay until the North Korean border guards run at them from the other side of the bridge and grab them. Considering the Chinese guide of North Korean origin has yet to be found the possibility he was in on their capture is still very much possible.
What I can’t figure out though is where on the border they were captured. They only thing I can determine from news reports was that they were detained along the Tumen River:
“We are aware through reliable channels on the morning of March 17, that two American citizens were taken into custody across the Tumen River from China into North Korea by what appeared to be North Korean border guards,” said State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside. [ABC News]
By spying down on the border using Google Earth I could see 10 bridges crossing the Tumen River from China into North Korea:
The first bridge that crosses the Tumen River is near the coast of the Sea of Japan and is a railway bridge which makes this bridge to be an unlikely location of where they were captured:
Here is a picture of the second bridge that is located in a rather rural area:
It is an improved bridge as well that as you can see in the picture buses use to go back and forth across the border:
This bridge is definitely a possibility where they were grabbed.
Here is the third bridge which is located once again in a rural area but does have a Chinese village adjacent to it:
This fourth bridge has a portion of the bridge collapsed so it could not be this bridge that the journalists were grabbed from:
If this bridge was fixed you can see how easy it would be to grab someone from this bridge:
Here is bridge 5 which has collapsed:
Judging from this picture, this picture this bridge may have bombed during the Korean War:
Here is the sixth bridge that crosses to the North Korean city of Namyang:
This bridge is also another possibility where they were grabbed, but I would think the North Koreans would want to grab them some where with less eyes:
Here is the seventh bridge that crosses once again from one Chinese town to a North Korean village:
Here is how this bridge looks like in real life:
Here is the eighth bridge near the North Korean city of Hoeryong:
Here is a picture of Hoeryong across the Tumen River from China:
Further up river from Hoeryong the Tumen River really starts to become a trickle in some areas as it passes through some very rugged terrain:
This picture further upstream shows how even more rugged the terrain gets:
Something that really stood out to me as I followed the Tumen River on Google Earth is how deforested many areas on North Korea’s side of the Tumen is compared to China:
This fact is clearly evident to anyone who has been up to the Demilitarized Zone and taken a look into North Korea, but even way up north on its border with China this country is just an absolute environmental disaster.
The next bridge, which would be bridge number 9 on my list, comes a long ways after bridge 8 and crosses into North Korea from the Chinese city of Chongshanzhen:
Past this town the Tunmen really does become a trickle with only some impoverished North Korean villages along its shores:
Here was the only other bridge I could find further upstream was this one:
This primitive bridge is located in a extremely scenic area:
After this brige the river becomes to narrow to even track on Google Earth anymore as it ascends up the largest mountain on the Korean peninsula, Mt. Baekdusan.
So that means there is a total of 10 bridges across the entire Tumen River, but really only 7 because two of them are collapsed and the 10th bridge is so primitive and remote it is really only good for foot traffic. So out of the seven remaining bridges if I wanted to grab someone with as few eyes as possible it seems the remote 2 and 3 bridges would be the place to do it because they are not located adjacent to major cities.
Ultimately we will not know which bridge they were captured on and what the circumstances were until the cameraman Mitch Koss tells everyone what he knows. I asked at the Liberate Laura site whether Koss would come out and speak and they think he has been told by the State Department not to speak out. They also said the Chinese guide is still missing and that activists in China had long been suspicious of the guy.
The bottomline is that we still do not if they crossed into North Korea or not and information now appears that they may have been grabbed off of a bridge that they were taken to by a highly suspicious person that has yet to be found. Clearly by just being on a bridge so close to North Korea taken there by a person of questionable character, as well as being related to a person who is on the regimes most hated list clearly shows these journalists were at best foolish, but they don’t deserve 12 years of hard labor either. Lets hope they get released soon, but the US government is definitely in a tough spot.
What do you think should be done?