Yesterday, former President Bill “Bubba” Clinton went to North Korea on a very special mission. Many theorized Tuesday morning that Bubba wouldn’t fly off to that country without something big being planned and negotiated beforehand. Turns out, they were right. After a three-and-a-half hour “negotiation” (in what amounted to a series of photo ops and North Korean attempts at propaganda), Bubba got the two American journalists out of their “hard labor” jail sentence/detention through a pardon by Kim Jong Il. Back in March, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, correspondents for Al Gore’s Current TV, were caught crossing over the North Korean border, and in June, were sentenced to 12 years hard labor. Their release became one of the many terse subjects in back-door negotiations between North Korea and America, and I’m personally surprised that it took so little to get these women out. Sources are claiming that the talks were “exhaustive”, but Bubba left North Korea within hours, with Laura and Euna in tow:
Laura Ling and Euna Lee were headed to Los Angeles from North Korea. For their families, their arrival couldn’t come soon enough.
“We are counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms,” the relatives of the American journalists say in a statement.
Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, who work for former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV, were released from custody Tuesday – pardoned, the North Korean media said, the same day that former President Bill Clinton met with them and with the country’s leader Kim Jong II.
“The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are overjoyed by the news of their pardon,” says the statement. “We especially want to thank President Bill Clinton for taking on such an arduous mission and Vice President Al Gore for his tireless efforts to bring Laura and Euna home. We must also thank all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal, it has meant the world to us.”
Gore, who had remained quiet during the ordeal, said on his Twitter page, “We are overjoyed by Laura and Euna’s safe return.” The families also thanked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had engaged in diplomatic efforts.
In an email to the journalists’ colleagues, Current TV co-founder Joel Hyatt called the pair “extraordinary women who have shown remarkable courage and initiative” and said their ordeal will not have been in vain.
“To Laura and Euna, we promise this: Your courage and passion will be honored by Current’s continued commitment to telling the stories that no one else will tell,” Hyatt wrote. “We owe you no less. Celebrate!”
Well, I’m glad that the women were released, I’m sure their families are overjoyed. I’m also impressed with Bubba’s skill in either/both the negotiations and the staging of the North Korean visit. Officially, Bubba was acting alone, “after the women’s families asked him to travel to the communist country and seek their release, a senior administration official said Tuesday.” But wink, wink, nod, of course Bubba went with the express permission of his wife, the secretary of state, and the current president. CNN is even reporting that Bubba offered an apology to Kim Jong Il, but the apology was not on behalf of America, or the current administration. Hopefully, this incident will help further negotiations about larger subjects, like nuclear war.