Laura Ling & Euna Lee Pardoned By North Korea


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!!


  • sjvanbul

    yeah Billy!!

  • Jacinta

    Bill is the man :)

  • ashley

    So happy that they can see there family and friends. Glad that Bill saved there lives and come back to the US.

  • Katie C.

    This is great news. I have so much more respect for Bill Clinton now.

  • Paranel

    Thank you Mr. Clinton for being a hero.

  • jen

    is anyone else thinking how weird it is that Bill Clinton, a retired ex-president, was able to get the release of these people, but not his wife Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State?

  • ellenez

    @jen …not weird at all. We all know how persuasive Bill can be? te he. Ask Monica.

  • erin

    thank god! this story really got to me and I was holding my breath for a happy ending. go bill go!

  • Jenn

    @ jen- i think it makes sense for bill rather than hillary because it seems like kim jong-il does not lose face. bill clinton is “just” an ex-president, while hiliary clinton is secretary of state, so it’s much more political.

    it’s like when bill clinton sent jimmy carter to north korea in 1994 when they threatened to start building up nuclear weapons.

    i dunno. thats just my take on it.

  • Dana

    Bill come to California and straighten out our Governor!!

  • Chris

    President Bill Clinton continues to be the most influential president of our time! This is truly amazing news.

    Dana: I wills President Bill Clinton would be our governor but that seems like a step backwards now…

  • Roxy

    I was also very happy when i found this news out! It’s very uplifting and I’m very happy for them!

  • Joey

    I am thrilled by this news! This is extremely uplifting and encouraging.

    (But Trent, I am wondering why you continually used the term “President Bill Clinton” in your write-up and even in the byline. I mean, I know you would like to pretend Bush’s term never existed, but it’s been a good eight and a half years since Clinton’s been in office!)

    That’s not to harp on Clinton at all – I love him and am so proud of his work regarding these women, especially.

  • Fashionista

    Praise the Lord.

  • tatiana

    THANK GOD! I actually prayed about this. Im so glad everything turned out well.

  • erin

    @joey it’s politically correct to refer to a former president in that way essentially to acknowledge the position they once held. it’s a sign of respect a prefix they’ve earned (ex. Dr. Jones, Sir Elton John, President Bill Clinton , AssHatDouchBag George W. Bush, et cetera)

  • Tracy

    I absolutely LOVE Bill Clinton. He is an amazing man. This is great news.

  • Joanne

    No one can make a sex ‘joke’ about him again … Full respect … Would a Republican have put themselves in this position of potential danger? I think not.

  • suz

    Lucky, lucky biotches…

  • Anna

    Great that they are free and it looks like they are doing ok.

    However, I think you cannot put the entire blame on North Korea here. These women knew what they were doing and the risks they were taking. If some North Koreans illegally crossed the border to the US they probably would also be detained.

    • @Anna — Just because N. Korea claimed they crossed the border doesn’t mean they did.

  • President Bill Clinton continues to be the most influential president of our time! This is truly amazing news.

    Dana: I wills President Bill Clinton would be our governor but that seems like a step backwards now

  • Jazz

    This is great news, good on you Bill!

  • DJWhoop

    just finished watching the reunion live on got a bit teary-eyed. very touching.

  • Jenn

    President Bill Clinton is BALLER!

    That reunion was heartwarming and amazing. The reason Clinton was sent is because he is probably the most influential civilian in America. Obama couldn’t send a member of his administration because that would make it a political and not humanitarian mission, and they keep reminding us that it was humanitarian and therefore not requiring diplomatic ties. I loved it when Laura Ling said that they were sitting in their cells and then called into a meeting, where Bill Clinton was waiting for them. That must have been amazing….

    Sidenote: Laura Ling’s husband is a hunk! I mean, that guy has movie star looks…wow!

  • Jenny

    It makes me wonder what the U.S. had to give up in order to obtain their release. I do not believe for a moment that ambitious little North Korea was just so tickled pink by President Clinton (a global joke) that they released those girls. I want to know what we gave them in exchange…

  • Denise

    Good question, Jenny. I was wondering that myself.

  • Margie

    There have been several incidents also in which N. Korea crossed into S. Korea and China without permission, where was they arrest?
    @Jenny, we gave them free press. Kim Jong Il loves it and they will probably use it to their advantage painting them in a sympathetic light in N. Korea and elsewhere.

    I totally teared up watching video of their return and landing back on US soil to their families.

  • Apples v 2


  • Shadowcatcher

    Welcome home to them! Now they can show their appreciation by making sure every penny of income derived from this series of events is claimed on not only their tax returns, but the tax returns of every publisher, screenwriter, director, and producer that sells something related.
    If they live another 60 years they may begin to pay back the country that retrieved them.