on May 18th 2010
Narrator: Laura Ling, Lisa Ling
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
On March 17, 2009, Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee were working on a documentary about North Korean defectors who were fleeing the desperate conditions in their homeland. While filming on the Chinese–North Korean border, they were chased down by North Korean soldiers who violently apprehended them. Laura and Euna were charged with trespassing and "hostile acts," and imprisoned by Kim Jong Il's notoriously secretive Communist state. Kept totally apart, they endured months of interrogations and eventually a trial before North Korea's highest court. They were the first Americans ever to be sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp in North Korea. When news of the arrest reached Laura's sister, journalist Lisa Ling, she immediately began a campaign to get her sister released, one that led her from the State Department to the higher echelons of the media world and eventually to the White House. Somewhere Inside reveals for the first time Laura's gripping account of what really happened on the river, her treatment at the hands of North Korean guards, and the deprivations and rounds of harrowing interrogations she endured. She speaks movingly about the emotional toll inflicted on her by her incarceration, including the measures she took to protect her sources and her fears that she might never see her family again. Lisa writes about her unrelenting efforts to secure Laura and Euna's release. Offering insights into the vast media campaign spearheaded on the women's behalf, Lisa also takes us deep into the drama involving people at the highest levels of government, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, Senator John Kerry, and Governor Bill Richardson—intense discussions that entailed strategically balancing the agendas and good intentions of the various players. She also describes her role in the back-and-forth between North Korea's demands and the dramatic rescue by former President Bill Clinton. Though they were thousands of miles apart while Laura was in captivity, the Ling sisters' relationship became a way for the reclusive North Korean government to send messages to the United States government, which helped lead to Laura and Euna's eventual release. Told in the sisters' alternating voices, Somewhere Inside is a timely, inspiring, and page-turning tale of survival set against the canvas of international politics that goes beyond the headlines to reveal the impact on lives engulfed by forces beyond their control. But it is also a window into the unique bond these two sisters have always shared, a bond that sustained them throughout the most horrifying ordeal of their lives.
I liked this book. I found Lisa’s story to be more interesting than Laura’s. That’s probably because Laura was in a room with her guards and there is only so much that happens. Lisa was negotiating with the media and the government. I did find their relationship a little uncomfortable after a while. I guess that’s because my closest relationship is with my husband and not a sibling. I couldn’t relate to the desire to speak or see a sibling being as important as a husband.
To me this will always be a story about ulcers.
A few weeks before I started listening to this book I think I got a mild ulcer. It really hurt for a few days until I modified my diet and drank pepto bismol to get through the work day. Right as I was getting better, a coworker started having stomach pain.
“I’m listening to this book..”
“Oh God, what now?” (Yes this is the coworker from the banana book conversation and yes, I think she does thank the universe EVERY DAY that I share my random insights with her.)
“I’m reading this book about a woman who was in captivity in North Korea and she had a history of real bad ulcers and she is having a hard time getting medicine.”
A few days later she texted me at home to tell me that her pain had gotten a lot worse and she was now dying. I pointed out that she had contacted her vet instead of a human medical professional and promised to work that into my speech at her funeral. I reminded her that she was lucky because she was not in custody in North Korea so she should quit whining.
I kept her updated when it turned out that Laura Ling’s ulcer kept her out of a labor camp. The North Korean authorities decided she was too sick to go to the camp and they were rescued before she recovered fully. We decided that if we were ever captured we would try to activate our ulcers to avoid a work camp. It is good to have a plan.
Speaking of having a plan
When Laura and Euna were flown back to the U.S. (on a private plane – I would have been excited about not having to fly commercial across the Pacific) their reunion with their families was in front of the press. I’m not having that. I marched into the house and told the husband.
“If I am ever captured by the North Koreans, our reunion will not be as I get out of the plane in front of all the press. You can climb the stairs your ownself and come see me in the plane.”
He looked at me for a minute and then looked back down at his book. “I wouldn’t recognize you.”
“You’d be like 120 lbs.” He had the nerve to smirk but not to look me in the face.
“Point 1 – F#$@ you. Point 2 – They fed them because they were high value American prisoners that they were trying to keep healthy. Point 3 – F#$@ you and Point 4 – F#$@ you again.”
This is why I don’t understand why people think reading nonfiction is boring. It engages you with the world around you and encourages you to dream up new places to hide the body. I don’t think my ulcer will keep me out of American prison though.