North Korea's History Of Coercing Detainee Confessions

North Korea provided CNN with rare access to the three detainees currently held in the country. The men pleaded for the U.S. to help release them.

North Korea's History Of Coercing Detainee Confessions

Guilty. That's the verdict three Americans being held in North Korea just gave themselves. 

WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: "You believe you're guilty of the charges you've been convicted of here?"


MATTHEW MILLER: "I will say ​I prepared to violate the law of the DPRK before coming here."

That was the general sentiment from Kenneth Bae, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller during their five-minute interviews with CNN. North Korea accuses them of so-called "hostile acts" against the state — and they admitted as much to CNN's Will Ripley.  

But here's why you could be skeptical: Former detainees have said before North Korean authorities coerced them into giving confessions. 

You probably remember Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old U.S. tourist who read this videotaped confession during his detention back in November. After his release, he told reporters he was pressured into giving the apology. (Video via CBS

Same goes for Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the U.S. journalists briefly jailed in North Korea back in 2009. (Video via C-SPAN

State-controlled news agency KCNA reported at the time the two women "admitted" to criminal acts. Ling later said her confession was made involuntarily.  

LING VIA CBS TELEVISION DISTRIBUTION / "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW" VIA ABC: "I knew that that was the confession they wanted to hear, and I was told if you confess there may be forgiveness, and if you're not frank, if you don't confess, then the worst could happen."

The three men currently in North Korea also told the Associated Press the only way they'll get out of the country is if the U.S. sends a high-ranking representative to negotiate. And that's a bargaining tactic Pyongyang has used in the past. 

Visits from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton secured the release of American detainees back in 2009 and 2010. 

​​But in some ways, that plays right into Pyongyang's hand, according to The Daily Beast:


"The Americans are likely being held as bargaining chips by the violent, attention-starved regime in order to seize attention or demand concessions."

The Obama administration made clear both times the former presidents were not acting on behalf of the U.S. government but as private citizens. (Video via The White House)

Washington has no official diplomatic channels with North Korea, instead using Sweden as an intermediary.