Following weeks of negotiations to orchestrate the release of two American journalists between Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, the United Nations and North Korea, former President Bill Clinton held a rare and “exhaustive” meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to finally bring the reporters home today.
The women, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, had entered the country illegally and were sentenced to hard labor as a result. After talks with Clinton, Kim issued the journalists a pardon–less than 24 hours after Clinton’s visit.
Lee, 36 and Ling, 32 had been held for four months in the country, following an attempt to report for Current TV. Their sentence was previously for twelve years prior to the Clintons’ intervention.
Upon their release, Clinton apologized for the journalists’ actions and expressed President Obama’s thanks.
“Obviously I am very happy and relieved to have these two young woman, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, on their way home to their families. I spoke to my husband on the airplane and everything went well. They are extremely excited to be reunited soon when they touch down in California. It was just a good day to be able to see this happen,” says Rodham Clinton.
She has been pushing for the release of the women since last month.
Clinton’s visit–during which Kim smiled and waved for photos–marked the first “high-level contact” with the country in almost ten years.
Officials are hopeful that these negotiations will pave the way for future peaceful talks regarding the current tensions over the country’s nuclear weapons activity.