Return to Transcripts main page


Lisa Ling & Families of Detained Journalists

Aired June 1, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, prime time exclusive -- Lisa Ling's sister, Laura Ling and fellow U.S. journalist, Euna Lee, held for almost three months in North Korea and about to stand trial.

Are they pawns of a country that just detonated a nuclear device -- an act that has the whole world on edge?

Their terrified families have stayed silent until now. They're here with urgent emotional pleas for their loved ones.

Freedom, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Many of the relatives will be here. We're sure you know the story.

We begin with Lisa Ling, the journalist; her sister Laura; and sister's colleague, Euna Lee, have been detained -- that's the word they use -- by North Korea since March 17th. They're scheduled to go on trial this week; in fact, June 4th.

You and Laura are you very close.

How are you holding up?

LISA LING, SISTER HELD IN NORTH KOREA: Well, this is been the most surreal thing that our families have ever gone through. My sister is my best friend in the world. And this is the longest we've gone without speaking. You know, both of us are journalists and we travel to distant lands for a living. And there will be times where we get phone calls out from as far away as Kazakhstan. I'll be in Kazakhstan, she'll be in Cuba and somehow we find a way to communicate. But...

KING: Is she older?

L. LING: She's three years younger, yes.

KING: Younger.

Did you both always want to be journalists?

L. LING: That's a tough question. I think that both of us had the desire to continue to doing journalism when we started traveling in the word. And we sort of felt incumbent upon telling these stories after experiencing so many things in the world.

KING: Do you have any idea how they're being treated? L. LING: Well, Swedish diplomats have now seen them three times. In fact, we just, as we were flying here today, heard that the Swedish ambassador was able to get in and see them for the third time. And he says that they look healthy and I talked to my sister once...

KING: He talks to you?

L. LING: He actually sends word through the State Department.

And I talked to my sister once. And when I asked her how she's been treated, she said, I'm being treated fairly. And for that, we are truly grateful. But, by the same token, she also said that she is -- is terrified. She's extremely scared.

KING: You've been on this show a couple of times since this.

L. LING: Yes.

KING: But this is the first time you or the family talking about it.

Why now?

L. LING: Well, our families have been quiet because the situation is very sensitive. And we've been really trying to allow diplomacy to take its course.

But you know, you'd have to be hiding under a rock not to see when's going on in the Korean Peninsula. I mean tensions are so heated. And the girls are essentially in the midst of this nuclear standoff.

And so we just felt like it was time for us to talk publicly and try and encourage our two governments to try to communicate, to try and bring our situation to a resolution on humanitarian grounds -- to separate the issues.

KING: Do you think, Lisa, there's some sort of quid pro-quo going on here -- you do this and we'll do that?

L. LING: Larry, I hope not. I hope not. I mean...

KING: That would be terrible, right?

L. LING: Yes, yes. I mean, you know people are saying, well, are they...

KING: Because then you're being pawns.

L. LING: ...are they being pawns?

And all we can do is -- is hope that both countries are keeping the issue separate.

KING: How well do you know Euna?

L. LING: I don't know Euna at all. I've never met her. But her husband Michael -- KING: He's here.

L. LING: ...and her 4-year-old daughter, Hannah, have become like extended parts of our family. I mean they spend almost every weekend with us. And it's been -- it's been difficult for all of us.

KING: What were they doing there?

L. LING: They were on the border working on a story about trafficked women along the border and...

KING: Women from where to where?

L. LING: From both sides, really. And the details of what happened the day they were arrested are unknown. I mean the only people who really know what happened were Laura and Euna.

But what we can say for certain -- you can ask any member of our family that when they left the United States, there was never an intention to cross the border into North Korea. We expected that they would be back in a couple of days.

And so that's what we can say with certainty. And if for some reason they did cross over, then we apologize profusely on their behalf.

KING: Do you think they could have accidentally crossed over?

L. LING: We don't know. I mean there's a possibility that they could have crossed over. But if they did, I don't believe they did it for long, maybe a couple of minutes. But then again, I can't say, because I don't know definitively.

KING: But you know they had no intention.

L. LING: Absolutely.

KING: We're looking at a map now of the area.

L. LING: Absolutely. We're told that at this time, you know, it's -- it's a very vague border. The river, the Tumen River, is frozen. But again, we don't know the specifics.

KING: It's a very desolate country there, isn't it?

L. LING: Yes. It's very desolate. And, apparently, they kind of scattered at a certain moment. And then they were picked up and arrested.

KING: How did you learn of it?

L. LING: The producer/cameraman who essentially escaped called his wife, who called someone from Current TV, who called my brother- in-law. So we got the call at about 2:00 in the morning. And it was one of the most challenging calls I've ever gotten, for sure.

KING: Who were they reporting for? L. LING: Current TV.

KING: That's Al Gore's.

L. LING: Al Gore is one of the founders.

KING: San Francisco network (ph), right?

L. LING: Yes. Yes. And my sister, they work for the Vanguard journalism unit and actually do fantastic journalism.

KING: Have you ever been to that area?

L. LING: I have. I went with a medical delegation years ago, yes.

KING: What was it like?

L. LING: It's, you know, it's not really germane to this story, you know. It was...

KING: No. But you were there.

L. LING: Yes. It was a fascinating experience. And the people that I encountered were -- were very kind to me.

KING: And now your sister called you last Tuesday, right?

L. LING: So last Tuesday...

KING: How was that -- how did that happen?

L. LING: It was so unexpected. My husband and I were -- were sitting at home and at 11:00 at night, I got a call. And I picked up the phone and I heard this little voice say, "Li, it's me. I need your help."

And the call lasted about four minutes. And it was extremely emotional. I'm surprised we were even able to get our words out. But in the course of that four minute conversation, she said that the only way she may be able to get released is if our two countries communicate. And that's one the reasons why we wanted to go public...

KING: Yes.

L. LING: encourage our governments to do so.

KING: How did she sound?

L. LING: She sounds scared, Larry. I mean, she sounds absolutely terrified. You know, it's been almost three months and the communication with her has been so limited. We got that one phone call. That was the first time I had heard her voice in two-and-a-half months. And we'd gotten one letter. Our family got a letter and her husband got one letter. And then that's it.

The only people who have seen them, outside of the North Koreans, is this Swedish delegation.

KING: Do you have faith that this country is doing all it can?

L. LING: I know that -- that our State Department is working hard on this issue. We communicate with them every single day. But because our two countries don't have a diplomatic relationship, communication has been so limited. So we hope that they can start talking about this issue on humanitarian grounds.

I mean the other issue is a far larger issue than we can have input on. But on this humanitarian issue, we -- we beg both countries to talk.

KING: As an activist, a journalist yourself, have you thought of going like to the mission in New York?

There's a North Korean mission, knocking on the door...

L. LING: Let's put it this way. My mother, who you'll meet in a little while, sends a letter and calls almost every single day, to the point where she's probably driving them crazy and I'm surprised they haven't released the girls just because my mom is making them nuts.

KING: Just to get rid of her.


KING: Well, the families are here, including Euna's 4-year-old daughter, Hannah, surely missing her mother after all this time. The women's husbands are getting ready to join us. They're next. We'll have some moving letters that they've received from their wives.

Stay with us.


KING: This, of course, a sad story. But we hope there's a happy ending.

And Lisa Ling, of course, remains with us. She'll be with us through the entire program.

Joining us now is Iain Clayton. He's the husband of detained journalist, Laura Ling. They've been together 12 years, married five, right?


KING: OK. And Michael Saldate -- Mike Salda -- date, right?


KING: Saldate.

What is the derivation of that?

SALDATE: I think it's originally from Italy and it ended up in Mexico somewhere.

KING: It sounds like a nice Italian restaurant -- Saldate.


KING: Michael is the husband of the detained journalist, Euna Lee. The couple have a 4-year-old daughter, Hannah. Hannah is currently in our green room.

How is -- have you talked to her about this, Michael?

She's four.

How do you deal with it (INAUDIBLE)?

SALDATE: Well, the hope is that Euna will be home soon. So I haven't really said much. I've just kept it that she's still at work and, you know, hoping that she'll be home soon and that mommy's assignment is done.

KING: Does she ask, where's mommy?

SALDATE: Yes. Well, she know that she's in Korea or China. And -- and that's about it.

KING: Now, Iain has written -- you've written something for our blog. And you'll be reading it if you go to it. You can read all about what Iain has to say about this.

How are you dealing with it?

CLAYTON: Well, it's -- as you can imagine, it's probably been, you know, the worst three months of my life, you know, not hearing from her. And we've been together for, as you said, 12 -- 12 years. And this is, you know, the longest that we've been apart.

One of the ways that has been -- you know, coping with this is, actually, you know, the families and the friends and all the support that we've got from people that Laura's known, has come in contact through her work and, also, just individuals who are just touched by the story.

KING: Did you know Michael before this?

CLAYTON: I didn't at all, no.

KING: Lisa, did, you know, Michael?

L. LING: No. We met through this. But we definitely have become a pretty big family as a result.

KING: Have you all bonded?

L. LING: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. L. LING: I mean, you know, we've -- we are so touched by Hannah and adore her. And she actually had a -- had a breakdown today -- you know, today's the first day that we have all talked about this publicly. And earlier today, we talked -- we were on a morning show and it was the first time Hannah had actually heard much about her mother and...

SALDATE: And she saw the pictures.

L. LING: Yes.

SALDATE: I mean, you know, there was a big picture of Euna. And -- and she was OK. And then when we left, in the airport, she just started crying. And I thought oh, maybe she wanted something. So I turned to say, what is it, honey? You know, what do you want?

And she goes, I want to see my mommy. And I couldn't do anything. There was nothing I could do or say to help.

KING: I don't think we have the sound on in the green room.

L. LING: No.

KING: So she's not hearing this.

SALDATE: Yes. She's...

KING: How did you hear about it, Iain?

CLAYTON: I actually got one of those phone calls that I have always dreaded getting since Laura's been working as a journalist. At about 2:00 a.m....

KING: That was...

L. LING: Yes. Iain called me.

CLAYTON: I got the call from one of her colleagues and...

KING: Saying?

CLAYTON: Saying basically that, you know, I've got really, really terrible news, really bad news. Laura has been, along with Euna, detained on the Chinese/North Korean border. We have very little information.

KING: What went through your mind?

CLAYTON: I think, at that time I was just, you know, devastated by it and, you know, shocked. And then, you know, my immediate reaction is well, you know, we've got to start doing things. We've got to get things.

And I rang -- Lisa my first telephone conversation.

L. LING: And we've -- I mean we've been hoping every single day that there would be positive developments. But now we're almost at three months.

KING: Doesn't Laura have an ulcer?

L. LING: She does.

KING: That could affect her, obviously, (INAUDIBLE)...

L. LING: In fact, she has a recurring ulcer and she's been allowed medication. But her physicians are extremely concerned about her.

KING: How did you find out, Michael?

SALDATE: One of the Euna's colleagues called me at 5:00, because they didn't have my number, for some reason, until then.

KING: What did you think?


KING: Obviously shocked.

SALDATE: Yes. Shocked. And I was just waking up. And I just couldn't believe it. I was kind of in disbelief at the moment. And when I -- my mind kind of woke up and grasped everything, I was like calling the Beijing -- the U.S. embassy in Beijing and trying to find out what was going on.

KING: What do you do for a living?

SALDATE: I'm an actor.

KING: Looking for work?



L. LING: But, Larry, this is one of those stories that we all weren't that concerned about because, again, they had no intention of crossing into North Korea. In fact, we expected that they would be home two days from when we last heard from them.

KING: Was this story they were doing delicate?

L. LING: Not necessarily. Not necessarily. They've -- they both worked on more concerning stories.

KING: In the past?

L. LING: Yes.

KING: What do you do, Iain?

CLAYTON: I work in finance. KING: As I mentioned, Iain has written an exclusive commentary for us. It's on our blog. Go to to read it, because you won't find it anywhere else.

Laura Ling's parents are still ahead.

And we're back in 60 seconds.


KING: And we're back.

Lisa, have you been able to correspond?

L. LING: We write Laura letters. I write her every other day. Iain writes her every day and...

KING: Do you hear from her?

L. LING: Well, we've only received letters one time and that was during the second visit by the Swedish delegation.

KING: Now, Iain, you have one of the letters.

You are going to read part of it for us, right?

CLAYTON: That's correct. Yes. This is...

KING: Written in her hand?

CLAYTON: This is written in her hand. This was the first time since she'd been detained that I had actually heard from her.

KING: How long after her detention?

L. LING: Months.

CLAYTON: Yes. It was probably like two months.

L. LING: Yes.

CLAYTON: You know, not -- at that point, we had not heard from her.

KING: Right.

CLAYTON: And, as you can imagine, I mean, this was actually one, you know, the most kind of painful kind of letters to actually get.

So what she writes here is that: "While I am trying to remain hopeful, each day becomes harder and harder to bear.

I am so lonely and scared. But baby, thinking of you gives me strength. You know I can feel you here with me."

KING: You OK, Lisa? Michael, you're not going to read a letter, but you can tell us a little of what she wrote you.

SALDATE: Yes. I had sent some pictures. Hannah was graduating so they had graduation pictures at her preschool. And I had sent her some. And it was good to know that -- I knew that it was her writing, because she said specifically she was looking at the picture I sent of all of us. And then she said -- she goes, I look at Hannah's graduation picture every day. And I don't know, that just crushed me.

KING: Where do you send the letters, to the Swedish embassy?


CLAYTON: Yes, the State Department...

L. LING: To the State Department and they send it on to the Swedish embassy.

KING: You know it gets to her?

L. LING: We think that they're getting most of the letters. I mean we aren't -- aren't certain -- sorry.

KING: That's OK.

L. LING: But we think they're getting most of them.

SALDATE: Then in the letters, I know Euna said that she's getting the letters inside her letter to me.

KING: Lisa, if you didn't cry, this would be strange.

L. LING: Yes. Yes.

KING: Lisa and Laura's parents are living a nightmare only a mother and father can know. And we'll hear from them right after the break.

Stick around.


KING: We're back.

Let's meet the whole panel and they'll be with us the rest of way.

Iain Clayton is the husband of detained journalist, Laura Ling. And he remains, of course.

Joining us now is Mary Ling. She is the mother of Laura and her other daughter, Lisa, of course.

And Doug Ling, who is the father of Laura and Lisa Ling. The Lings are separated. But, of course, they're here tonight in unison. As we understand, the father lives in Sacramento, right, and the mother in Los Angeles.

Lisa remains aboard, as does Michael Saldate, the husband of the detained journalist, Euna Lee.

All right, Mary, how are you -- how are you handling all of this?

MARY LING, LAURA LING'S MOTHER: Holding on as best I can.

KING: Who told you about it?

M. LING: On March 17 at 2:00 a.m. we got a call from Iain, my son-in-law.

KING: How do you say something?

What do you say?

CLAYTON: It's -- it's really very difficult. You know, I called them and, you know, they -- clearly, getting a call at, you know, that time in the morning, they're not expecting great news. And I just said look, I'm really sorry, we've just found, out you know.

L. LING: Iain and I had really debated calling them at that time but...

KING: You have to, though, right?


L. LING: Yes, yes. Plus, my mom speaks fluent Mandarin. So thought, at the time, that we should get her on board to start making calls to China, because we -- we weren't sure exactly what happened. And we were all kind of pounding the phones immediately.

KING: What did you think, Mary?

M. LING: It's been a surreal, nightmare experience. And I hope that it soon will be over.

KING: How did you learn, Doug?

DOUG LING, LAURA LING'S FATHER: Ian called me about 2:30 in the morning. And then -- at first, I couldn't believe what I heard. And then when I finally realized what happened, I didn't know that mental anguish and pain was that great. I didn't know what to do.

KING: Did you call your other daughter?

D. LING: No, I didn't because I know she knows it ahead of me.

L. LING(INAUDIBLE) this is a...

KING: Are you... L. LING: You know, Larry, it's a -- we're a family of doers, you know. And this -- we've all just felt so helpless. You know, we've had the highest levels of diplomats working on our behalf at the State Department and so on. But the fact is that our countries don't have a diplomatic relationship.

So it's been so challenging to try and get our countries to communicate on any level.

KING: Would the word, Michael, be frustrating?

SALDATE: Yes. And then some, if there's any more stronger word.

KING: Because there -- there's this nation out there that's probably -- we know the least about of any nation in the world, right?


KING: And your wife is there.


KING: That would be frustrating.


KING: Lisa, is the family, despite the separation of your parents, close?

L. LING: Yes. Actually, my parents have -- have been quite close for a long time. And we've even, I think, gotten closer as a result of -- of all of this, because it's been difficult. We haven't had people to share this with. It's not like there's any kind of support group that we can call because how often do you meet people whose loved one is detained in North Korea, you know?

We all have -- have been very grateful, however, that the girls seem to be healthy and be -- that they're treated fairly.

KING: And that seems...

L. LING: And we really appreciate that.

KING: Mary, we understand you got a letter from your daughter.

M. LING: Yes.

KING: Would you share part of it?

M. LING: OK. I hope I won't break down.

KING: This is not easy, but...

M. LING: Yes. I just want to read the last paragraph that she wrote. She's a very caring, selfless girl. She wrote: "I am thinking about you all constantly and how fortunate I am to have such an amazing, loving family. Stay strong and please take care of yourself. That is my biggest request. Know that I am doing OK and dreaming about being reunited with you all again."

KING: Is your sister the kind of girl who would worry more about you than you worrying about her?

L. LING: Well, that -- we think that's probably how she incurred the ulcer, because here she is detained in North Korea with limited contact with anyone and she's more concerned about how we're all doing. It's very typical of her.

KING: Governor Bill Richardson has been to North Korea. He helped secure the release of other Americans held there. And we're going to ask him if Laura and Euna have a chance of being released. That's a little bit ahead.

More with the families, next.



LAURA LING, JOURNALIST: Hidden in these mountains and beyond into the Golden Triangle is where a lot of the marijuana and the poppies which are used to produce heroin are being grown.



LAURA LING: I've been in a few country that have Muslim majorities, such as Iran or Egypt, where you -- as a woman, you either have to wear a head scarf or you feel like you have to dress a little bit more conservatively. Here in Turkey, it's just not like that.


KING: Doug, is it hard to look at her?

D. LING: Yes. Very hard.

KING: She looked like a damn good reporter, by the way.

L. LING: She's an amazing reporter. She really is. And we're so proud of her. And that's the thing. You know, it's -- it's been difficult to see our parents going through this, because this is kind of what we've been doing for a long time and we're very passionate about it.

KING: Is Euna a committed journalist, too?

SALDATE: Yes. She's more of an editor.

KING: Travels a lot?

L. LING: This was her first assignment. SALDATE: This was her first assignment.

L. LING: Overseas assignment.

KING: First assignment?


KING: Where did she work before this?

SALDATE: In an editing room.

KING: Oh. So this is...

L. LING: She's been an editor, yes.

KING: ...the first time out?

SALDATE: The first time out, yes.

KING: And we understand, Iain, that Mary called you and wanted you to come over?

CLAYTON: That's correct. You know, once we got the call, obviously, everyone was devastated. Everyone was trying to find out as much information as possible. And, you know, Laura and I recently bought a house together. And, you know, Laura -- because the family is so close, Laura wanted the -- you know, us to live close by to her mother. So we are about 10 minutes away. So she called me and, you know, just I went over straightaway.

KING: Just comfort, right?

CLAYTON: Just to try and comfort her. And, obviously, at that point, you know, we didn't know what was going on. And so just having that family. And then for the first month, month-and-a-half, we were, you know, pretty much camped out at, you know, Laura's mother's -- mother's house.

L. LING: We became our own news service. I mean every -- every item that came over the news and on television, we just were maundering it meticulously and continue to do so.

KING: Was it hard not to come forward?

L. LING: It has been at different times because -- that's why I think everyone's so emotional. We've been all holding it in for almost three months. But we've had faith that diplomacy was taking place. And we continue to hope that it will continue. But given everything that's been happening in the news, we felt like we had to come forward.

KING: When you hear reports that North Korea is going to maybe scale a bomb maybe further this time, that frightens you, right?

L. LING: Well it does, because Laura and Euna are seemingly in the middle of this. We have no contact with them.

KING: Mary, the -- there's highs and lows usually in every story. Have there been any highs here? I guess getting a letter must have been a high.

M. LING: The first visit -- the first visit was a high and then getting a letter was just incredible. The Swedish ambassador -- you know, the second visit, get a letter out to us. I just read a little bit.

KING: Have they been very good, the Swedish?

L. LING: Incredible. The Swedish ambassador has been so tireless in his efforts to try to see the girls. And I think one of the most amazing things that's happened, also, is there has been this incredible movement of people who just feel compelled to offer their support and their well wishes. I mean, this grass roots movement grew out of Facebook and there are vigils planned all over the country on June 3rd, which is the night that the trial starts. The trial starts in Pyongyang June 4th.

So it's incredible. Hundreds of people are expected in cities across the country.

KING: When it's June 3rd here, is it June 4th there?

L. LING: Yes, the evening of June 3rd, yes.

KING: We'll be back with our guests in a moment. Should the United States deal one-on-one with North Korea? That's tonight's quick votes question. Go to to answer it your way. We'll be back after this.


KING: That is little Hannah. That's live in our green room right now. She is not seeing this show. Kind of pretty, huh? Four years old. And she's the daughter of Euna and Michael. As we've said, Laura and Euna work For Current TV, which was founded by former Vice President Al Gore. He appeared on CNN in mid-May and spoke about their detention and his own efforts to secure their release. Watch.


AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are doing everything we possibly can to secure their early release. And we are continuing those efforts every single day. And because the North Korean government is a little bit different, and not really responding to the kinds of public appeals that maybe we're familiar with when other governments are involved, we're going about this in the way we think has the very best chance of securing their safety and their early release.


KING: And that was sometime ago. So we contacted Current TV, asking for a statement for tonight's program. Contacted them today. We were told, no comment at this time. Lisa, what do you make of the vice president's statement and their -- the desire not to comment today?

L. LING: Well, I mean, as I said earlier, this is an extremely sensitive situation. And we have also been maintaining silence for quite a while. It is just given what's been happening and the tension, that we felt like we wanted to speak out.

KING: So you can understand the network not wanting to comment?

L. LING: Absolutely, absolutely. Vice President Gore has been incredible. I mean, I know that he is working so hard to try to secure the release of the girls. And we talked to him on a regular basis. I mean, there are periods where we talk to him every single day.

KING: Ian, is someone with your mother-in-law almost all the time?

CLAYTON: Sure. They're a very close family as we've said. And, Lisa --

L. LING: I stayed at my mom's house for about a month and a half.

CLAYTON: She rings me two and three times a day. We're obviously making sure that everyone is being supported.

KING: Doug, do you feel a little out of it up in Sacramento?

D. LING: : I keep contact with Lisa and I call Mary about around 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

KING: Every day?

D. LING: Well, not quite. But every day with Lisa.

L. LING: It's been hard for my dad because I think he is the only one who's not heard Laura's voice.

KING: Directly from her?

L. LING: Yes, because my dad wasn't home when she called. The calls were so unexpected. In fact, Euna called Michael a couple times before even reaching him.

KING: What was it like getting that call?

SALDATE: I missed the one. I got the message. So I was ready to throw a rope over the rafters because I missed that call. But luckily I called Lisa, hoping she would catch Laura before anything. But she told her mom, who told the State Department, who then told the Swedish ambassador. And Euna called me later.

KING: So the Swedes, the State Department, they're all on top of this?


KING: Lisa, this is a difficult moment but we're going to take it. This moment is seen in North Korea. CNN is probably the best known western outlet in North Korea. And so we'd like you to look in the camera one. It's your opportunity to speak directly to North Korea. We would assume some officials are watching. Anything you want to say.

L. LING: OK. We don't know the details of what happened on March 17th. But if at any point the girls went into North Korea, then we apologize on their behalf. They never intended to do so. And we are sorry and we -- we beg your government to allow my sister and Michael's wife and Hannah's mother to come home.

It's been three months and we miss them desperately. And we also encourage both of our governments to come to a resolution on this humanitarian issue as quickly as possible.

KING: Michael, you want to look and say something? What can you say but --

SALDATE: I just -- I want my wife back home. You know? I -- I don't know what else to say. And I know Hannah wants her mother. And I mean, just from what happened today at the airport and her saying I want to see my mommy --

KING: That was out of nowhere.

SALDATE: That was out of nowhere. She just started crying and I tried calling my sister-in-law to try to calm her down a bit and she couldn't even do it.

KING: That's as good as it gets. Ian, you want to say something?

CLAYTON: I just want to reiterate what Lisa said. You know, we don't know what happen. It's been three months. You know? Euna is a mother. Laura's my wife. I miss her desperately. You know, she has a medical condition, which we fear has been exacerbated by this situation.

And for whatever they did, we know that when they set out, they didn't have any intent to do -- to cross into North Korean soil. And we apologize for that, and for them. And just, you know, we want them to come home, to come home to their families. They're sorely missed.

KING: These are good and kind human beings. And all they're asking is that you listen. We reached out to the North Korean ambassador to the U.N., inviting him to participate in this program or provide a statement about Laura Ling and Euna Lee, received no answer to the request. The ambassador, by the way, has an open invitation to be a guest on this show, or to give us any written comments which we will read in full. Bill Richardson may have the most insight into what the North Koreans are gaining by holding the two Americans. He's here in 60 seconds.


KING: We thought it important that we invite Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, on for a few minutes because he's an expert on this subject. You've dealt with the North Koreans. You've been to North Korea. Can you help with this situation regarding Laura Ling and Euna Lee?

GOV BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, what I would advise, Larry, is the Obama administration has handled it well. Separate the two issues. Separate the issue of our differences on nuclear weapons, the testing of the North Koreans, the bad relationship there, and then keep separate the humanitarian release, the request for the two women, the two journalists that were only doing their job.

If you link the two, you allow the North Koreans to use the two Americans as bargaining chips. You keep them separate. You keep your rhetoric restrained.

You don't insult them the way they were insulted in the last administration, axis of evil, making fun of Kim Jong-Il. You keep it better towards some kind of resolution after their trial of the two girls, which is going to happen on the 4th of June.

KING: If the president asked you to undertake a mission to there, would you go?

RICHARDSON: Well, of course I would try to help any way I could. But I think the important thing now, Larry, is there's some good signs. The good signs is that there's a trial. The investigation's ending June 4th. This means their legal process has ended.

The North Koreans have been relatively calm and restrained in denouncing these young women. They haven't charged them with espionage. They have charged them with hostile acts, which is relatively mild. And lastly, they've allowed the Swedish ambassador to come in and visit them on humanitarian grounds. They allowed the families to have phone calls with them.

They're not being treated well. I'm not making the North Koreans look good. But those are hopeful signs that the North Koreans will want. And they will want the negotiation on the two women to possibly also discuss the big differences that we have over nuclear weapons development, the six-party talks.

KING: To your knowledge, will these two girls be the first Americans tried by North Korea?

RICHARDSON: They're the second, Larry. When I went to North Korea ten years ago and got an American released, he had been tried for espionage. We got him out. Unfortunately, he committed suicide several days after I got him out. But the good news is that the trial is the end game in terms of treating detainees. And my hope is that once the trial is completed, they'll be sentenced. They'll be charged with probably hostile acts. As long as it isn't espionage, then that's when you start to negotiate, when you start maneuvering. When you start --

KING: After the sentencing?

RICHARDSON: Yes, after the sentencing. Because right now, their legal process hasn't ended. It ends after the sentencing. And I expect there will be a day or two after June the 4th.

KING: One other thing, governor, is the president doing enough?

RICHARDSON: Yes, he is. He's handling this well. And so is Secretary of State Clinton, appealing on humanitarian grounds, talking to the Chinese, talking to the United Nations, making public appeals for the release of the two women, keeping the two issues separate, not getting overly heated up in rhetoric against the North Koreans.

You know, they're very unpredictable. They're inconsistent. They don't think like we do. They're not like two diplomatic nations negotiating with each other. They are in their own world.

KING: As always, thanks, Bill. Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico. When we come back, we'll get the response of the families to the governor's remarks.



KING: State Department issued these two sentences about the situation: "We're continuing our strong efforts to seek the release of the journalists so they can return to their families. We have no higher priority than the protection of American citizens abroad."

Lisa, based on what Bill Richardson said, this doesn't sound like a trial, per se. It sounds like a sentencing on June 4th. And then negotiations begin. Is that the way you read it?

L. LING: Right. Well, we certainly aren't certain of the particulars of this trial. All we can do is just hope that at the conclusion of --

KING: Of whatever.

L. LING: -- that it results in a release, yes. And we will accept any delegation that both countries agree upon, if a delegation is to be accepted.

KING: OK. Based on his statements, though, he got someone out who was tried on espionage. Unfortunately, the party killed himself, but he did get him out.

L. LING: By the way, from what we read and heard, he had a history of mental illness, that guy. That's what we hope. We hope that the North Korean government will show clemency and allow the girls to come home to us.

KING: From what he said, does it encourage you? Discourage you? What?

L. LING: You know what, Larry, all we can do is just be hopeful. The second we allow ourselves to think worst-case scenario, we're kind of -- you know, it's over.

KING: Would you want someone to go over, somewhat like Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson? Jesse Jackson has done this a lot.

CLAYTON: Yes, I think anyone who is acceptable to both governments and could secure the release of Laura and Euna would be acceptable to us.

KING: Mary, are you hopeful? Honestly.

M. LING: I think I'm much more hopeful now than ever.

KING: Do you feel better coming out like this?

M. LING: Yes, yes, I do. It felt so helpless and hopeless before. At least it feels like we're doing something.

KING: Doug, do you feel better?

D. LING: : Yes, I feel much better.

KING: Hopeful, too?

D. LING: Yes, yes.

L. LING: The secretary was right, June 4th, at least it's a date. We were operating without any information. So at least now there's a date and we're just hopeful that the right thing -- justice will be served.

KING: The terrible thing, Michael, is there are no cameras that will be there, right? They're not going to see this.

SALDATE: Yes, and there's no witnesses. There's nobody that will know.

KING: Will the Swedish have a representative there, to your knowledge?

L. LING: We don't know.

SALDATE: We don't know.

M. LING: I think that the ambassador's been asking to be present, but we don't know whether he's been granted.

KING: We have an e-mail from Richard in California who asked, "is the court system in North Korea the same as the USA with a prosecutor, defense and a jury? Who will represent Euna and Laura?"

L. LING: We've been trying to inquire as to whether they will have legal representation. And we're told that they will each be appointed a defense attorney in North Korea.

KING: Richardson said it sounds like there's a sentencing. Like there isn't a trial as we understand it.

L. LING: It sounds like it. There probably isn't a trial as we -- as we know it, but hopefully --

KING: Has anyone to your knowledge defected from North Korea that could give us some inclination as to what goes on there?

CLAYTON: Not of our knowledge. I think, you know, as the government pointed out, this is a very unique situation. You know, we've read a lot of things in the press about the legal system, but I don't think people really know. It's a lot of speculation.

L. LING: We actually -- you know, we actually hope that this could present an opportunity for our two countries to have increased dialogue. I mean, we watch in the news every day the tension continuing to get more and more heated, and perhaps this could be a chance.

KING: When we come back, in our remaining moments, we ask them to talk to officials in North Korea. And when we come back, we'll ask them to talk to Laura and Euna.


KING: Doug, we don't know if she'll see it, but if there's a chance she does, what would you like to say to your daughter if you look at camera two?

D. LING: I just want to tell her how much I love her and how much I miss her. And I want her back. I want her and Euna back to the world.

KING: Ian, what would you say to your wife?

CLAYTON: I would tell her how much I love her, how much I miss her, how much she means to me, how I'm thinking of her every moment of the day. And to be strong, to not worry, to know that we're doing everything that we can to get both her and Euna released.

KING: You've been in love with her, huh, for a long time. Michael, what do you want to say to Euna?

SALDATE: I love you. Hannah loves you. And we both need you. And we want you to be strong and to hang in there for us when you come back, because we want to see you and Laura safe and in our arms.

KING: Mary, to your daughter?

M. LING: Like I write to her every night, I say, do not worry about us. Take care of yourself. Be strong and be brave. And we promise that you will be home with us soon.

KING: Started with you, Lisa? Make a speech.

L. LING: Laura, you're my best friend in the world. And I've missed talking to you every single day. And know that your families are working so hard. We're doing everything that we can do to try and bring you home to us.

And to both of you, stay strong, breathe deeply, meditate. And just focus on being home with us, because we are very hopeful that it will be soon.

KING: A good question from the control room. Michael, where are your in-laws?

SALDATE: Euna's sisters are here in America. One's in San Francisco. One's in Colorado. And her parents are both in South Korea.

KING: In South Korea.


KING: Have you heard from them?

SALDATE: yes. I talk to her sisters on a daily basis. And then they communicate everything to their parents.

KING: What do they make of all this? Especially those in South Korea.

SALDATE: They were upset -- yes, it's been difficult because they're kind of out of touch because they're not here. Like, at least the Lings have each other. You know, Lisa stays there every day. And they're kind of separate from us. So it's been very difficult. They've been kind of separated from family.

KING: You're hanging out there alone, you and Hannah.


KING: Not for the support of the Lings.

SALDATE: Well, yes. Gosh, I think the first month I was probably there every day. Yes, I'm kind of alone at times, too, but my sisters-in-law will visit with me, and my sister will come.

KING: Lisa, you can never not think about it, right?

L. LING: It's been difficult for any of us to even work.

KING: That's what I mean.

L. LING: I'm a journalist, so how do you report on stories when the most important story to you is happening in your own home? Again, we're staying hopeful. And we want to thank your producers because they bought Hannah a lot of toys to keep her occupied so that she wouldn't hear the sound and see the photographs.

KING: You wore a different hat tonight, didn't you?

L. LING: It's a little disconcerting to actually be on this side.

KING: To be in the news rather than about the news. We wish you all nothing but the best.

L. LING: Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: I hope the next time we're together they're here with us.

L. LING: Exactly.

KING: That's it for tonight. I'm Larry King. We'll make room for seven. Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC" 360. Anderson?