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US journalists freed by N Korea return home

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Last Updated: August 05, 2009, 23:35 IST

US journalists freed by N Korea return home

Ling and Lee were charged for illegally crossing N Korean border.

Los Angeles: Two US journalists, who were freed by North Korea after three months in prison on Tuesday, arrived in the US on Wednesday along with former president Bill Clinton.

Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, landed at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport near Los Angeles.

Clinton had made an unannounced visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday to secure the release of the journalists.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il pardoned the women after meeting Clinton.

Ling and Lee raised their arms in the air, waving as they exited the plane before they were greeted by their joyous families.

Covered live on US television, Lee tearfully hugged her husband and four-year-old daughter.

"The past 140 days have been the most difficult, heart-wrenching time of out entire lives," a tearful Ling said in a brief statement to reporters.

"We are very grateful that we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea and we are so happy to be home," she said.

An emotional Lee described how the two journalists were escorted by North Korean authorities to their meeting with Clinton, unaware that the 42nd president had come to the country.

"We were told that we were going to a meeting," she told the reporters.

"We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors we saw standing before us president Bill Clinton," Lee said.

Ling and Lee were arrested in March this year at the Chinese-North Korean border. They were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labour after North Korea accused them of illegally crossing its border.

President Barack Obama briefly addressed reporters to thank Clinton and former vice president Al Gore for their tireless efforts to free the journalists. Ling and Lee worked for Current TV, which was founded by Gore.

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    "The reunion that we've all seen on television I think is a source of happiness, not only for the families, but for the entire country," Obama said.

    "Not only is this White House, obviously, extraordinarily happy, but all Americans should be grateful to both former president Clinton and vice president Gore for their extraordinary work," he said.

    (This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - IANS)
    first published:August 05, 2009, 23:35 IST
    last updated:August 05, 2009, 23:35 IST