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Laura Ling shares story of North Korean captivity at YWCA awards ceremony in Salt Lake

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Posted at 9:35 PM, Sep 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-25 23:35:23-04

SALT LAKE CITY - The YWCA honored courageous leaders at a luncheon held at the Grand America Hotel today. Former Utah Governor Olene Walker was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to public service.

The keynote address was given by Emmy Award winning journalist, Laura Ling. Ling commended the organizations efforts to shine the spotlight on women who serve their community.

"The YWCA is such an amazing organization. It’s about strong women leaders servicing other women and children," said Ling.

As a journalist who has covered stories all around the globe, there's one story that changed her life forever. Ling and another journalist were filming a documentary in March 2009 when they crossed over the China-North Korea border. They were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison. Five months later, President Bill Clinton traveled to the Communist country and helped secure their release.

"When I saw President Clinton standing there before us I felt as if all of my fears and all of my worries were suddenly disappearing and my dream had come true that I was going home. That I would be able to see my family," said Ling.

Ling returned home to the U.S. with a new perspective on life. She was determined to tell stories that would inspire others.

She hosts a web series called Rituals.

" It was really motivated by the ritual that I began in North Korea which was practicing the act of gratitude," said Ling.

"For example, I heard my guard humming a song and I hadn’t heard music in such a long time. That allowed me to have a little bit of hope and get on to the next day."

Each story shows viewers how people survive harrowing experiences.

"We profile just the most amazing people, a young boy, young amputee who’s ritual is sports. He’s an amazing athlete. The ritual of a Hollywood stuntman of what he does to get in that frame of mind before he literally gets set on fire," said Ling.

Ling encourages women to find their voice and more importantly cheer each other on.

"A lot of times women look at each other as our enemies, our competitors when really we need to look at each other as our sisters, otherwise we all suffer," said Ling.