Reporters on the Job

Going to Jail to Get the Story: Normally, when a reporter goes out to report on refugees, aid groups or activists are keen to talk. They're trying to get funding and draw public attention to the refugees' plight. But that wasn't the case with today's story about the underground railroad of North Koreans passing through Thailand to get to South Korea.

"South Korea doesn't want to talk about it because it's a sore point with North Korea. Thailand doesn't want to play it up because the North Koreans are entering the country illegally," says correspondent Simon Montlake. So Simon found none of the official sources or activists wanted to talk to him about it. But he found a South Korean journalist living in Thailand, who had covered the railroad for years and was willing to lend a hand.

"One evening, we drove around Bangkok looking for a refugee safe house. He told me he could spot them by the telltale signs: no car, no decorations, no garden, and lots of shoes outside," says Simon. But even after cruising the streets and talking to some local restaurant owners, they were coming up empty-handed.

"Finally, we went to a Thai prison and persuaded the guards to let us in. My South Korean colleague had gotten the names of a couple of North Korean refugees from a missionary activist. The guards let us in, and announced the names over the prison loudspeakers. Nothing. Unfortunately, the guards had mangled the Korean names. So, my colleague gently suggested that he try.

"A few minutes later, we were in the yard talking to a pair of North Korean refugees. That's how we got the story," says Simon.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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