In June we learned that US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years hard labor by the high court of North Korea after they were convicted of an array of trumped up charges (at the time of the women’s arrest, they were working on a news report on human trafficking in that area of the world). Since their sentencing, the governments of the world have been trying to figure out a way to encourage the North Korean government to overturn this ruling and to free the convicted journalists. Yesterday, President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea to meet with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il to act on behalf of Ling and Lee to hopefully facilitate their release and was able to convince Jong-il to pardon them. According to The New York Times, President Clinton, Laura Ling and Euna Lee have already left North Korea and are on their way to the US right now:
Former President Bill Clinton left North Korea early Wednesday, after securing a pardon for two jailed American journalists from the reclusive North Korean president, Kim Jong-il, Reuters reported. The two journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, were returning to the United States with Mr. Clinton, the news agency reported, after having been held by North Korea since being detained by North Korean soldiers along the Chinese border on March 17. They were on a reporting assignment from Current TV, a San Francisco-based media company co-founded by Al Gore, the former vice president. They were eventually convicted and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor for “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry.” But they were held near Pyongyang rather than sent to a labor camp after the sentencing, raising hopes that North Korea might be willing to pardon them. The administration, which had initially said the charges were “baseless,” began discussing a possible “amnesty” for the women, signaling a readiness to acknowledge some degree of culpability in return for their freedom. On Tuesday, the Ling and Lee families issued a joint statement on their Web site in which they thanked the Obama administration, President Clinton and “all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal.” They added that they were “counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms.” The pardon added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.
Tensions have been high since a nuclear test by the North on May 25 and the subsequent American-led effort to impose international sanctions against the North. Administration officials sought to temper suggestions that Mr. Clinton would engage in sweeping discussions with Mr. Kim about North Korea’s nuclear program. His brief, one official said, was strictly limited to the imprisoned journalists … Mr. Clinton flew into Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in an unmarked jet early Tuesday morning local time, Central TV, a North Korean station, reported. The White House confirmed the visit on Tuesday, but said it was a private mission. “While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment,” Mr. Gibbs said in a statement. “We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission.” It was widely assumed that Mr. Clinton would not have undertaken the mission without specific assurances that Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee would be released … Television footage from Pyongyang showed Mr. Clinton being greeted at the airport by North Korean officials including the chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan and Yang Hyong-sop, the vice parliamentary speaker. The footage showed him smiling and bowing as a young girl presented him with flowers. Photographs released by North Korea showed Mr. Clinton sitting next to a thin, though not sickly looking, Mr. Kim. The Obama administration had been considering for weeks whether to send a special envoy to North Korea. The visit by Mr. Clinton, even if officially a private effort, was clearly undertaken with the blessings of the White House, and marked his first diplomatic mission abroad on behalf of the administration. Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been deeply involved in the journalists’ case.
This is amazing news!! To be honest, all North Korea ever wants is to be taken seriously by the governments of the world and like a spoiled child, they act out in order to get the attention they so desperately want. Having a former President of the United States of America visit their country and ask for the release of these journalists was prolly enough for Jong-il to get what he wanted, cuz clearly that is all it took to orchestrate their pardons. It’s terrible that Laura and Euna had to be used as pawns in this way but perhaps this is the first step for new diplomatic ground between the US and North Korea. At this point, that is up in the air … all that matters right now is that Laura and Euna will be reunited with their families very shortly. Happy, happy news!!