• Michael Jackson wanted to help Laura Ling & Euna Lee

    By Herald de Paris Contributor's Bureau on July 7, 2009

    By Gotham Chopra
    NEW YORK (Via Intent.com) – The last time I spoke to my friend Michael Jackson was about a month ago, 3 weeks before his shocking death. He had called me late one night to ask about another of my close friends who he had read about in the news. Laura Ling, a former colleague and friend, was detained originally by North Korean border guards along with her colleague Euna Lee on March 17th. Since then, they have been imprisoned, had very little contact with their families or western officials, and endured a secretive trial at which they were sentenced to twelve years hard labor. At this present moment, it is unclear where Laura and Euna are – whether they remain in a government guesthouse where they were originally held, in a hospital (due to medical problems for both of them), or moved to the infamous North Korean labor camps that many do not survive.

    Michael had read some of the details regarding Laura and Euna’s predicament. As was often the case with him and global events he read about – from famine in Africa to victims of natural disasters in far off countries, to orphans created by wars – he felt a deep sense of empathy for Laura and Euna. When I shared with him that Euna had a four-year-old daughter, he was even more anguished.

    He asked me whether I had had any contact with Laura. I told him I had written her a few letters and had been assured they were getting through. Outside of that, her own family had only heard from her twice – brief monitored phonecalls – in the over three months they had been imprisoned. When I told him that, Michael paused.

    “Do you think,” he said hesitantly, “that the leader of North Korea could be a fan of mine?”

    I didn’t really know how to respond. Not much is known about the reclusive Kim Jong Il or “Dear leader” as he is called in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Over the years it’s been alleged he has a thing for Hollywood, certain NBA stars, Elvis, and specific liqueurs. Still, I’d never heard about any connection between Michael Jackson and Kim Jong Il.

    Michael said he had seen some pictures on the internet of the Dear Leader. “You’know, he wears jackets like mine.”

    I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It’s true. Michael always had a fascination with military-like jackets, the types with markers and badges on the collars and shoulders. If you search it online, you will indeed find a lot of images of Michael and Kim Jong Il, similarly bedecked in analogous outfits.

    “I don’t really know,” I answered Michael. “But I can try and find out.”

    “Please,” Michael responded without hesitantly, “because maybe if he was a fan, I could help get those girls home.”

    I explained to Michael that there were larger geo-politics involved, nuclear programs, a new administration trying to assert its foreign policy strategy (Obama), and another one in NK possibly going through some sort of transference of power.

    “Yeah,” Michael said wistfully, “but if someone wants to do something good, they just can. They don’t really need to worry about all that other stuff.”

    And that was really the end of that conversation. I kept my promise and tried to see if I might find a connection between MJ and KJI, but sadly I wasn’t able to. Before I was able to get back to Michael, the news regarding his tragic passing broke. The tributes and commemoratives began in earnest and have not stopped.

    Then the irony occurred to me, the far out bizarre seemingly impossible possibility: there is really only one person in the world today that could make a truly meaningful tribute to Michael Jackson. If indeed Kim Jong Il ever was a fan of Michael Jackson, ever gasped at Michael’s moonwalk, smiled at Thriller, hummed along to the Jackson Five or any of Michael’s countess hits, his pardoning of Laura Ling and Euna Lee and sending them home to their families would be a profound act of compassion, a true tribute to a man whose death has left the entire world in mourning. What a better way to re-invent himself and his own conflicted image than for Kim Jong Il to send a message of hope, forgiveness, and empathy as a commemoration of possibly the greatest icon of our times. It’s an act that would be historic, covered by every news organizations in the world, and be immortalized in the annals of time.

    Alas, maybe I’m naïve to have such dramatic hopes for my friend and her colleague, to think that leaders of nations may be influenced by the dying wishes of great artists. Or…maybe not. To me, Michael’s memory will always be as a great friend and mentor. To many around the world, it will be as an iconic and brilliant musical artist. Wouldn’t it be staggering if one Kim Jong Il were to honor him – post-death – as a truly great humanitarian?

    – Gotham Chopra

    Originally published on Intent.com

    Sandra July 6, 2009

    I hope your friends make it home for N. Korea. I can’t begin to imagine what they might be going through.

    Thank you for writing this story about Michael Jackson. Michael has been so distorted by the media that a complicated web has been formed and I don’t think a lot of people understand or know about the facts.

    Janet July 6, 2009

    Thank you for writing the one article that makes me feel a genuine sense of Michael Jackson, makes me know why his death has felt so unexpectedly painful. Empathy like that, and a readiness to do something to help, aren’t things that can be feigned or learned. I am glad to have this story, as well as his incredible music and dance, to remember him by.

    And, like the reader who posted before me, I too hope for a positive outcome for Laura Ling and Euna Lee and hope that they manage to sustain themselves and each other until then.

    SeekTherapy July 7, 2009

    I never believed what the media wrote about Michael Jackson. , he had a kind heart. Today when someone does something nice for another, we question his or her motives.
    Not many have tried negotiating with Kim Jung-il to bring Lisa Ling’s sister and friend home. Reading the article made me cry because Michael Jackson had been ridiculed, called horrible names and accused of the unthinking all for his money. The world needs more people like him and it is sad he is gone.

    Jason July 8, 2009

    As a US citizen currently living and working abroad – I say fuck the bitches. If you enter a foreign country and break their laws – you deserve what you get. Maybe this will prevent other starry-eyed American ASSHOLE journalists from trying to be STARZ at another country’s expense. Stay the FUCK home next time!

    N July 9, 2009

    To Jason. Maybe they were being TRUE JOURNALISTS trying to educate and uncover for the world whats happening now in North Korea. Lets see, get on a plane, put themesleves in danger, leave family at home…..doesnt seem to me there searching for fame. They are searching for truth and humanity. Rather then our current US news coverage that educates the world about nothing.

    Anita July 11, 2009

    These Girls are trying to do the right thing.And we should do that too.What happened to Truth and Humanity, and yes Kim Jung should do the right thing as well.

    Michael Jackson hope you are happy there ‘cos this world never understood you!

    Anita July 11, 2009

    Please Sign the petition.I just did.Hope Kim Jung gets it right

    A July 12, 2009

    Why do Americans think they need to impose THEIR ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of the press to everyone and their mothers? Who are WE as Americans to tell North Korea, hey this is not right?
    It’s their own fault for trying to “find out the truth” — who gives a rat’s ass? We have enough people in our own country that can’t even feed their own kids, why don’t they go and report on that?

    Jes Alexander July 12, 2009

    A and Jason, it is not a matter of imposing American ideology .. more a matter of complying with a prescribed practice of humanitarian treatment of prisoners, particularly prisoners of foreign origin. Further, if North Korea continues to act like a country waging war (The Korean War technically never ended), they must be held to the standards of the Geveva Conventions, which are sanctioned by the International community, not the US. Once an American leaves US soil, they must understand the US laws DO NOT APPLY, and international laws are their best ally … but they are NOT US laws.

    David July 12, 2009

    Wow Jason, it looks like you are a great guy giving us Americans a good name abroad. Stay classy you dirtbag.

    Amy July 13, 2009

    This was a nice article to read right now.

    I feel for these two women! And it would have been something if Michael could have helped in some way. It just goes to show you how he really thought about things!

    As far as those of you who believe these women deserve this, why are you so hateful? How far do we get in life being so nasty? They don’t deserve it! And anyone who believes they do has some real problems.

    Let us get them home July 13, 2009

    I can´t believe the “American” who says it is their own fault. Number 1, we don´t know what really happened at the border. Did they really cross? Unlikely, but to keep the North Koreans happy it is better to say NK is right. Number 2, next time you get in trouble we can tell the Embassy to let you stew in your own brew. How about that? Number 3, journalists report on uncomfortable issues for a living. Would you rather they stay home and give you the latest football results only? Sad place, where a journalists life and commitment is treated so disrespectfully. Hope you never need a journalist. Number 4, a journalist goes where he can best report. Probably these ladies have some command of the local language, which makes them reporters of choice for this story. To report on stories abroad makes sense, because we are “One World”. We are all affected. The trafficking they were reporting on is a world-wide problem. To resolve any problem we have to look around, educate ourselves, analyse cause and effect. It won´t happen if all we see is our corner of the world.

    I hope Laura and Euna can come home soon and yes I would try everything. Every helping hand is welcome. Write something naive, like maybe Kim Jong II might be a fan? Yeah sure! Good going Mr. Chopra. I´d rather be naive than not try at all.

    Rose July 13, 2009

    How sad for these young journalists and ALL journalists around the world who live the ideals of America like any soldier, frequently giving up their lives for the sake of free press. God bless these MOST IDEALISTIC Americans. Their under appreciation of service given towards the ideals of democracy is staggering. Their service is FOR THIS COUNTRY, they are not out there trying to “proselytize” to other countries! Without their sacrifices (Lee, Ling and the countless other journalists who have been shot, beheaded, kidnapped, tortured etc) we would not be a free press and therefore lost freedoms. GOD BLESS THESE JOURNALISTS AND THEIR SPOUSES< CHILDREN< PARENTS AND other relatives who all make the sacrifice for all in people in existing democratic nations.

    Debra July 13, 2009

    Thank goodness for free speech Jason, if you were in a country like North Korea, you would probably be arrested, tortured and thrown into jail. It was lovely to hear the story about Michael Jackson from Gotham Chopra. Although Michael was a troubled man, and enabled it seems by those around him, he was a sensitive soul and his response to the girls, although slightly naive to the political ramifications of the situation was a compassionate gesture. It really is about positive intention. Sometimes out of the box creativity can yield surprising results. With the news that the leader of Korea, has cancer, maybe the leadership will be changing soon, and there may be room for a diplomatic solution. Light and love to the girls and their families!

    Kiki July 14, 2009

    thank you so much for writing this article! It shows Michael for what he truely was and not what the media made him out to be. Michael never stopped giving & he never let the negative things said about him or done to him change him. It seems anymore people won’t help someone else or if they do they think whats in it for me? Michael was never like that. Rest in Peace Michael=( I hope those two girls make it home & what is wrong with you people that say these women deserve this?? How hateful & rude that is. They do not deserve this & if you think they do….well i feel sorry for you because something is wrong with you Also just think about it these girls could be your sisters, your friends what if they were? would you be so nasty & hateful then?? think about it

    cindy July 23, 2009

    Debra: not only would Jason be arrested, tortured and thrown into jail, but his family members as well. even though the Kim Jong Il regime has starved millions of its own citizens, if they so much as complain about being hungry, they are sent to “re-education camps” (gulags) that few survive.
    if the reporters DID cross illegally into N Korea, that was stupidity of the highest degree, but keep in mind the Kim Jong Il regime is known for abducting foreigners not only near its borders but on the soil of THEIR OWN COUNTRY (Japan, China, S Korea.)

    meera rasadurai August 26, 2009

    If only people came forward and wrote more good things about Michael when he was alive … He wouldn’t have had so much misery … Those who couldn’t comprehend him would have seen him from a diverse point.
    Then again people always see others and interpret situations according to their own frame of mind thus refuse to see the authenticity and truth in another. It’s not the doctors neither the pills or vaccines … It’s the media that gave him his slow death… Fame came with a high price for someone as soft, kind and sensitive like Michael Jackson. His loss is felt by all and me. Such energy he has!! … Lucky you Gotham , to have known and been a friend of someone so special … And am so glad your friends are back …. Peace n Love

    katnip January 8, 2010

    I’ve been revisiting some old sites I’ve been to soon after MJ passed… And, I can’t help but to keep on keeping on, contributing any which way to the KING.
    It’s 2010 now and I’m still grieving Michael more than I grieve after my dad, who passed just this past November 2009, AND, I only began discovering MJ after his death!
    Michael Jackson was a person and a personality, and now he is a movement. I’ve met so many people since his death that are still sore and ever more aware about what MJ meant to humanity–to you and to me. It’s not going to stop here; the ripple will go on FOREVER………. Much love to you all, and thank you for this marvellous article!

    Mariana February 6, 2010

    Thank you Gotham for the sweet comments. It seems that Michael had purity. And time passed and now… I saw Earth Song and heard his children at the Grammys and I felt… In the end it’s all about L.O.V.E. The triumph of love. His song and Prince’s words ELEVATED the energy at the Grammys. Aleluya!!!

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