“Somewhere Inside” by Laura and Lisa Ling

After reading Euna Lee’s The World Is Bigger Now, I thought it would be appropriate to read Laura Ling‘s account of her parallel experience as a journalist in captivity in North Korea. Laura Ling’s book, Somewhere Inside, is co-written with her sister Lisa Ling in order to show both Laura’s experience in captivity and Lisa’s experience at trying to help her obtain freedom. The authors take turns telling their perspective on the story and each section is woven together in a way that is not too confusing for the reader, despite the constant back and forth.

While being held captive and not knowing her future for such a long time, Laura Ling’s account is of course personal in nature but much less so than that of Euna Lee. This is because Laura had a very different experience than Euna due to her sister’s, Lisa’s, contacts in the United States. In the communication-vaccum that is U.S.-DPRK relations, the Laura-Lisa connection became the primary way that Pyongyang communicated what it wanted from Washington in order to release the journalists.  In this sense, Laura’s book certainly supports some of the findings in Robert Egan’s Eating with the Enemy, particularly the concept that Pyongyang tries to communicate with the United States through somewhat unconventional channels.

Laura’s book also describes the criminal proceedings and the disposition of the court in a bit more detail than Euna. However, it is clear that it does not provide nearly the level of detail that it could have. There must be some cautious reason for Laura’s not divulging more about this process.

One thing I did think was funny, was the spelling of Korean names. There’s a point at which one of the guards that was watching Laura during her captivity changes names entirely from Kyung-hee to Hyung-hee and then back again. Though this hardly presents a problem to the reader, I didn’t really expect to encounter such a basic editor’s error.

Comparatively speaking, if I had to choose which account I preferred best from Euna Lee and Laura Ling’s books I would have to choose the latter. The reason is that Euna Lee’s book is much more personal and, for some reason, she seems to have been kept in the dark regarding the political process that surrounded her captivity, while Laura was more privy. In addition, her sister Lisa’s perspective helped to explain much more tangibly the way that the entire fiasco unfolded and was eventually resolved. All in all, I think I learned more form Somewhere Inside.

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