Wearing uniforms designed by Kim Jong Il, North Korea's traffic girls mechanically rotate counter-clockwise (the only way they're allowed to turn) at intersections throughout Pyongyang. There are no traffic lights in the communist capital, only young women selected for their beauty to direct cars — especially the ones who stop to stare. But you don't have to be on a street in the isolated country to check them out. There are countless videos on YouTube and even fan sites created for the women. I guess being gawked at internationally is a vocational hazard.
Just like Jon Stewart, I was wondering what the heck must have gone through Bill Clinton's mind when he met North Korea's Kim Jong Il with hopes of securing the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Well last night, the former president chatted with Jon about the whole ordeal. My favorite part came when Jon asked Bill about his role as Batman, since, you know, Clinton acts as an international superhero these days. Clinton revealed that he prefers to think of himself as a character from a James Bond movie. Check out the clip!
"Most of the North Koreans we spoke with said they were fleeing poverty and food shortages. One girl in her early 20s said she had been told she could find work in the computer industry in China. After being smuggled across the Tumen River, she found herself working with computers, but not in the way she had expected. She became one of a growing number of North Korean women who are being used as Internet sex workers, undressing for online clients on streaming video. Some defectors appeared more nervous about being interviewed than others. But they all agreed that their lives in China, while stark, were better than what they had left behind in North Korea."
— Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee opened up today about their ordeal in North Korea. They were finally able to report the story that led them to the border in the first place, of desperate women who flee North Korea only to be forced into the sex trade or arranged marriages once they get to China. In the article, the pair also describes being dragged into North Korea from Chinese soil by North Korean soldiers.
Now that Bill Clinton has helped bring journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling home safely from North Korea, prominent politicos are speaking out against the way the release was handled. Appearing on Fox News today, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris argued that negotiating with North Korea gives the rogue state "an opportunity to rehabilitate its image globally simply to get two reporters out of jail."
Former UN ambassador John Bolton makes a similar argument that the trip is a "propaganda victory for North Korea," claiming that involving dignitaries like Clinton could create more danger to Americans in the future.
So what should we do with the journalists, just leave them there? Pretty much, says Morris: "What were they doing in North Korea in the first place?" Well, here's what I think.
- Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee arrived home in California this morning, accompanied by former President Bill Clinton. — CNN
- A man who opened fire in a Pennsylvania gym last night, killing four, apparently kept a website chronicling his years of rejection by women. — AP
- President Obama has unveiled a $2.4 billion grant program for electric cars. — MSNBC
- An Iranian lawmaker said today that the three captured Americans arrested for illegally entering from Iraq are "definitely" spies. —LA Times
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Kenya today spreading a message of free trade and the rule of law. — NY Times
North Korea has pardoned American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who might return to the US with former president Bill Clinton tonight. Clinton arrived in North Korea earlier today to negotiate the release of the American journalists. He met with the country's communist leader Kim Jong Il.
The journalists, who were reporting along the Chinese-North Korean border, had been convicted of crimes against the nation and sentenced to 12 years hard labor. North Korea had made two demands if they were to be released — First, an apology, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a few weeks ago. And second, a visit from a high-profile emissary, which Mr. Clinton fulfilled today. So, if you ever get stuck in a North Korean jail, you can hope that the Clintons will bail you out. I'm sure the families of Ling and Lee are very happy to hear this news.
- Bill Clinton has arrived in North Korea to negotiate the release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. He reportedly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il today. — Huffington Post
- The number of Americans on antidepressants has doubled over the last decade to a total of 27 million. — USA Today
- President Obama turns 48 today. — NPR
- Goldman Sachs's CEO has told employees not to show off and avoid making big purchases. — NY Post
- The Obama administration has continued to pursue an aggressive strategy against illegal immigration. — NY Times
North Korea doesn't merely have beef with the US government — it's also taken issue with America's most iconic food: the hamburger. Although the communist regime and its authoritarian leader, Kim Jong-Il, have long banned any cultural influences considered to be "US imperialist," the country opened its first-ever fast-food restaurant last month. The only thing that won't be served? Burgers.
At the Samtaeseong restaurant in Pyongyang, customers can get a "minced beef with bread sandwich," an order that bears an unmistakable resemblance to the American favorite. The item, which is priced at $1.70 — more than half the average North Korean's daily income — comes with kimchee, or spicy fermented cabbage. Diners can also order sandwiches made of minced fish or vegetables, waffles, and draft beer. In addition, the restaurant will soon serve hot dogs and croissants that have been given Korean names.
My guess is that opening night at Pyongyang's inaugural fast-food joint was probably the talk of the town, although — with the addition of unintentionally of-the-moment kimchee-topped hot dogs to the menu, I'm pretty sure the menu would draw just as much attention in a major US city. What do you make of the situation? Does the renaming of the hamburger seem reminiscent of the "freedom fries" controversy from several years ago? What do you think of North Korea making mincemeat of the hamburger?
She's baaaack! Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been out of the spotlight after breaking her elbow in June, but she came back to the stage on Friday to hold a town hall for State Department employees — and she didn't take the weekend off from diplomacy either, appealing to North Korea for the release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Hillary said the two reporters expressed great remorse and that "everyone is very sorry that it happened." North Korea has signaled that it would release the women if the US government made a formal apology.
- North Korea continues to threaten to attack the US, today promising a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" if the US attacks it first. — Fox News
- Romantic emails between Gov. Mark Sanford and his lover in Argentina have been released. — The State
- Iran's defeated presidential candidate Hossein Mousavi said today that threats and pressure will not stop him from pursuing a new election. — AFP
- In a huge upset, the US soccer team beat the world's best-ranked team Spain in a semifinal match at the Confederate Cup tournament in South Africa. — ESPN
- Apple has allowed the first pornography application to be sold at the iTunes App Store. — Wired