Another officer picked up the receiver from a telephone that was on the floor in a corner and tried to place a call. This was the first bit of technology I had seen in the three different locations in which we'd been held. To his frustration, there was no connection. He tapped on the receiver button repeatedly but was unsuccessful. I wondered if he was trying to contact higher authorities or officials in the capital, Pyongyang. The out-of-date-looking telephone and lack of connection seemed to be signs that we probably didn't need to worry about the room being bugged or electronically monitored. I wanted to be with Euna alone so we could speak more freely and figure out a plan.
So far, Euna had informed the officers that we were students working on a documentary project about the border and trade between China and North Korea. We knew the issue we were really covering, North Korean defectors escaping from their country's poverty and brutal government, was particularly sensitive and that the missionary groups that had been aiding us were not liked by the North Korean regime. I began to think about what evidence we had that might compromise our sources and interview subjects, or reveal what our true purpose was in the region.
An officer pulled out the digital still camera that was in my bag. He handed it to me and asked me to show him the photos. I remembered the pictures of North Korean women defectors I had taken. One was of a girl who had fled from North Korea and was lured into the online sex industry in China before being smuggled into South Korea by missionaries. The other was of a woman who had been forced to marry a poor farmer in China. While that photo only showed the back of the woman's head, I didn't want to take any chances. I nervously deleted these pictures before showing the officer some of the benign ones, such as me enjoying a traditional Korean meal in Seoul.
We were then taken to another building. But before we left the first facility, we were blindfolded with two bandanas I had in my bag. I'd become accustomed to carrying bandanas on my trips because of their versatility—they can be used as handkerchiefs, hair wraps, or protective cloths. Now my own bandanas were being used to keep me prisoner.