Veteran broadcast journalist Laura Ling shared a message of hope and resolve with more than 300 people in the Betty R. Tipton Room on March 13 as the last guest in this year's Arts and Lecture Series.
Ling, who is host and investigative reporter for "E! Investigates," spent much of her time describing her own capture and imprisonment in North Korea in 2009. She and her producer, Euna Lee, were reporting on a story about North Korean defectors on the Chinese-North Korean border for Current TV when they were arrested and held in confinement for 140 days.
On March 17, 2009, Ling and Lee were interviewing defectors on the frozen ice of the Amnok River between China and North Korea when two North Korean soldiers captured them and dragged them back to North Korea. During her captivity, Ling was interrogated on a daily basis. "I would walk endless circles in my cell just to stay busy. I was scared, confused, numb . . . in despair."
"But I never lost hope," she continued. She was able to receive letters from friends and family--"my husband's letters were my oxygen" and encouragements such as meditation techniques and Bible passages. Eventually the North Korean Supreme Court, following a five-minute deliberation, sentenced Ling to 12 years of hard labor.
"One thing I learned from this ordeal is that all people want the same things--decent lives and to provide for our families. I realized that good things can happen when people interact and learn how much we all have in common." Ling also realized that North Korea wanted to save face and only needed a graceful resolution to grant Ling's release. That came in the form of former President Bill Clinton. Apparently when North Korean leader Kim Jung-il's father had died in 1994, Clinton was the first person to reach out to him. The condition for freeing Ling was simple--Kim Jung-Il wanted to personally meet Clinton.
Today, Ling has a 20-month old daughter and wants to continue to "do things that make a difference; things that will make my little girl proud."
"Journalism is a fast-changing profession, but it performs a vital service to our nation. We live in a world where the need to communicate to build bridges between peoples has never been greater."