Despite the current boom of blogger celebrities, for millions in the blogosphere the prize remains elusive. However, recent events in North Korea have paved the fastlane for two fortunate unknown journalists. No blog necessary. Right now, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are fielding six figure offers for interviews and million dollar book deals, the fruits of a four month self-inflicted misadventure in Pyongyang. The stakes are high, but for anyone seeking celebrity status there appears to be no quicker way. After closely examining their story, I believe I have uncovered the formula.
Behave Stupidly In A Foreign Socialist Nation
Upon returning to the United States, Laura and Euna were greeted as heroes, beacons of hope and a uniquely American brand of courage. Held as political prisoners for 140 days by one of the world's last remaining freak despots, they were ultimately rescued from 12 years of hard labor and returned safely to their families and their freedom.
But the question remains: why were Laura and Euna in North Korea to begin with?
Working for Al Gore, of course. The two women were on assignment for Gore's little-known Current TV, covering refugees crossing the border between North Korea into China. However, what few press credentials they have between them are meager, to say the least. Laura Ling is younger sister to Lisa Ling, former co-host of ABC's "The View", and had done only minor reporting for Current TV prior to her capture. Euna Lee, on the other hand, had no journalistic experience whatsoever. This could explain why Laura and Euna took it upon themselves to cross casually into one of the most dangerous and isolated countries on earth. As Laura tweeted upon landing in the Seoul airport, "Hoping my kimchee breath will ward off all danger." Further, Rev. Chun Ki-won of the Seoul-based Durihana Mission warned them not to venture into North Korea. "I told them very clearly not to go to the border," he said.
Perhaps in a healthier economy the American people would make a bigger deal out of their return home. The lack of attention suggests that people realize they have far more important things to focus on. However, what bothers me isn't that their story is receiving insufficient coverage, but that the nature of the coverage is so celebratory, as though the United States has claimed some sort of victory.
The only winners here, in this order, are: Laura Ling and Euna Lee, Bill Clinton and, last but certainly not least, North Korea (honorable mentions go out to the highest bidding talk shows and publishers). For Laura Ling and Euna Lee, their act of stupidity not only thrust them into the middle of a major international conflict, it may well have 'made' their careers as journalists or, at the very least, public figures (a far more lucrative profession these days).
For Bill Clinton, the clean slate has received a fresh coat of polish. Yet, at what cost? The official word on Clinton's visit to North Korea is that it was a private, strictly humanitarian effort, with no connection to the the United States Government or the Obama Administration. However, according to Daniel Sneider, associate director of of research at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Clinton's arrival in Pyongyang was merely the icing on the cake. "[Clinton] didn't go to negotiate this, he went to reap the fruits of the negotiation," Sneider said.