August 5, 2009
Journalists Euna Lee, right, and Laura Ling were jailed for nearly five months in North Korea. (Courtesy The Associated Press/AP Television News)

Journalists Euna Lee, right, and Laura Ling were jailed for nearly five months in North Korea. (Courtesy The Associated Press/AP Television News)

Journalists Back in the USA

Two American journalists jailed in North Korea since March are back home in California after former President Bill Clinton secured their release.

Clinton went to Pyongyang Aug. 4 and met with leader Kim Jong Il, who pardoned reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee in a surprise move. Korean news agency KCNA called it a "special pardon."

Ling and Lee were arrested near the Chinese border March 17 and charged with entering North Korea illegally and committing hostile acts. In June, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

The reporters were reportedly pursuing a story for the San Francisco–based news company Current TV about North Koreans leaving the country. North Korea places severe restrictions on its own journalists, and the country ranks last in the annual survey of worldwide press freedom published by Freedom House, an independent private organization that supports the expansion of democracy and freedom in the world.

Clinton made the trip to North Korea with the knowledge of President Barack Obama.

"This has been a long and complex process, given the situation on the Korean peninsula," said Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We thank former President Clinton for his intervention, and we are grateful that the North Korean authorities have responded to appeals for clemency."

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