August 5, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Bill Clinton leaves Pyongyang with pardoned US journalists

The two journalists described their capture in a statement posted on the Current TV website on 3 September: click here ------------------ Reporters Without Borders hails today’s release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were arrested by North Korea on 17 March and were sentenced to 12 years in a labour camp in June on charges of “serious crimes” and trying to defame the regime. They were freed a day after US President Bill Clinton’s surprise arrival in Pyongyang. “We are relieved by the release of these two journalists, which underscores the fact that the charges against them were baseless,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But we must not forget that a third journalist, Korean national Kim Seong-cheol, is still being held by the authorities. North Korea continues to be one of the world’s most totalitarian regimes and its population is denied the most basic rights.” After flying yesterday to Pyongyang to seek the release of Ling and Lee, the former US president met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. The North Korean news agency KCNA said Bill Clinton gave him an apology over dinner and Kim responded by granting the two journalists a “special pardon.” The US administration has denied that Clinton gave any apology. Clinton, Ling and Lee left Pyongyang this morning in a chartered jet and made a stopover in a US military base in Japan before setting off again for Los Angeles. A US official said the two women were in very good health. Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, work for California-based Current TV. At the time of their arrest, they were investigating the trafficking of North Korean women across the border between North Korea and China.