Perhaps Burbank was the last destination Laura Ling and Euna Lee had figured for a fantasy getaway, but for the two Los Angeles journalists imprisoned in North Korea, it was the happiest place on earth. They and former president Bill Clinton arrived at Bob Hope Airport at dawn today, ending a nearly five-month ordeal for the two women. A day ago they were held captive in the Communist nation and faced 12 years of hard labor for straying into the Kim Jong Il's totalitarian state while on assignment in China. Then, following Clinton's surprise visit to Pyongyang Tuesday and a flurry of talks with North Korea's leader, the captives were headed home to the States.
Ling and Lee may have felt some professional frustration about sitting on top of the week's biggest news scoop without being able to break the story, but it is doubtful they have any regrets. The two were working for Current TV, the San Francisco-based cable news network founded by Clinton's former vice president, Al Gore, and Joe Hyatt, when, they said, they inadvertently crossed the border into North Korea. L.A. Observed noted last night that Channel 9 carried a report in which Ling's mother claimed that a few weeks ago her daughter had called her to deliver a North Korean message that its government wanted Bill Clinton to come to Pyongyang to formally complete Ling and Lee's release.
After the announcement of the journalists' “pardon,” according to the New York Times,
North Korea said Clinton apologized to Kim Jong Il for the
journalists' trespass into North Korean territory, although Clinton's
wife, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, denied the former president or
the United States apologized for anything.
The N.Y. Times reports that “Mrs. Clinton was deeply involved in the case, too. She proposed sending
various people to Pyongyang — including Mr. Clinton's vice president,
Al Gore — to lobby for the release of the women, before Mr. Clinton
emerged as the preferred choice of the North Koreans.”
North Korea has remained the United States' implacable foe since
the two countries fought in the Korean War of 1950-53. In 1968 the
Stalinist state seized the crew of the USS Pueblo and only
released it after official apologies, and following the sailors' 11 months
of brutal imprisonment and harsh interrogation.
that appeared on Current TV's Web site thanked the Obama
administration and Bill Clinton for their efforts to free the two
journalists, adding, “We will have more to say in the days and weeks
ahead. But for now, all our thoughts are with Laura and Euna and their
families, who have shown remarkable courage and initiative for the 140
days of this ordeal.”