Laura Ling Recounts North Korea Captivity

May 19, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Former US president Bill Clinton (L) and US vice president Al Gore (R) look on as freed US journalist Laura Ling reads a statement at the airport in Burbank, California on August 5, 2009. Following talks in Pyongyang with Clinton, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il pardoned Lee and Ling who were sentenced to hard labor for entering the country illegally. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US president Bill Clinton (L) and US vice president Al Gore (R) look on as freed US journalist Laura Ling reads a statement at the airport in Burbank, California on August 5, 2009. Following talks in Pyongyang with Clinton, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il pardoned Lee and Ling who were sentenced to hard labor for entering the country illegally. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
American journalist Laura Ling revealed in an interview that aired Tuesday her experiences in a North Korean prison. Ling was detained in an isolation cell for 140 days last summer and forced to say that she was a spy from the United States.

“I thought, ‘I will never be able to have a family with my husband again,’" said Ling, who appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

On March 17, 2009, Ling along with her colleague Euna Lee, were doing a story on human trafficking into China of North Koreans who hoped to escape circumstances in their country. The journalists, who were at the China-North Korea border for the story they were working on, accidentally crossed the border and were immediately arrested by North Korean police.

Ling, a reporter for Current TV based in San Francisco, usually reported on sensitive topics in the most dangerous parts of the world and this time her assignment was to write about the fear and difficulty women refugees face after escaping North Korea. Irrespective, she was not prepared for the harsh welcome she received in North Korea.

The North Korean government charged the two journalists with espionage and forced them to confess to things they were not guilty of, including planning to overthrow the government. They were told to be “frank” when confessing and if not, the government threatened them with “the worst” outcome. Even after they told the police what they wanted to hear, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

Five month after their detention, the two were released after successful negotiations between President Bill Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Laura’s sister Lisa Ling fought a hard and endless battle with help from Laura’s co-workers. The sisters published a memoir of their experiences in “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home.”

On May 19, Current TV’s Vanguard program will air a special episode featuring Ling’s retelling of the ordeal.