Lisa Ling, the television personality, revealed that her sister — Laura Ling, 32, a reporter with Current TV — planned to write an editorial explaining the events that led North Korean authorities to detain her and a fellow American journalist, Euna Lee, 36. But Ms. Ling, speaking by telephone on CNN Thursday evening in her first interview since the release, revealed that the two women did apparently cross into North Korea from China as they were researching a story on human trafficking on May 17. The women were subsequently convicted and sentenced to 12 years hard labor.
“She did say that they touched North Korean territory very, very briefly,” Ms. Ling said of her sister, adding later, “She said that it was maybe 30 seconds, and everything just got sort of chaotic. It’s a very powerful story and she does want to share it.”
Either way, what followed were more than two months of harrowing confinement, Ms. Ling said on Thursday. She said that her sister had spent much of her time in isolation, with only three small meals a day that consisted primarily of rice with rocks mixed in, small vegetables, and fragments of fried fish “which she developed a reaction to.” Ms. Ling was confined to a small cell, where she would walk in circles for exercise, read books, and occasionally bathe.
“Bathing was a little bit difficult because they didn’t have hot water,” Ms. Ling said, “So she would fill up buckets and she would say, ‘O.K., on Saturday I’m going to wash my hair.’”
Among Ms. Ling’s only human contact, her sister said, was with the guards who were assigned to her cell.
“I think she won a lot of her captors over,” Ms. Ling said. “She had some really lovely things to say about the people who were watching her. She had two guards in her room at all times. And even though they couldn’t speak together, they developed a sort of strange kinship.”
In her short time home, Ms. Ling has been racked by a fear of being alone. On Wednesday, exhausted from her ordeal, Ms. Ling wanted to take a brief nap but pleaded for her sister to be there when she woke up, her sister said. She added that her sister’s colleague, Ms. Lee, has also been trying to adjust to her new life at home with her family.
“I hear that Euna’s 4-year old daughter does not want her to leave her sight,” Ms. Ling said. “She keeps following her from room to room.”