The families of two US journalists jailed in North Korea said on Tuesday they were “overjoyed” by news that former US president Bill Clinton had secured their release on a historic trip to Pyongyang.
“The families of Laura Ling [凌志美] and Euna Lee are overjoyed by the news of their pardon,” they said in a statement, which also praised the work of US President Barack Obama’s administration.
“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. We are counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms,” the statement said.
Laura Ling’s father Doug was ecstatic at news of his daughter’s freedom.
“I’m elated,” he told CNN. “This is one of the happiest days of my life. I knew something positive was going to happen. And it happened. I’m very thankful for the government for doing all they can to gain the release.”
US administration officials said Obama called the families of the two reporters on Tuesday evening to express his relief that the pair were coming home.
The women were expected to be reunited with family and loved ones in Los Angeles early yesterday.
Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, were arrested in March while reporting near North Korea’s border with China and sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labor.
The two women had been on an assignment for San Francisco-based television network Current TV at the time of their arrest. Former US vice president Al Gore, one of the founders of the station, expressed elation at the journalists release in a joint statement with fellow network founder Joel Hyatt.
“All of us at Current are overjoyed at Laura and Euna’s safe return,” Gore and Hyatt said. “Our hearts go out to them — and to their families — for persevering through this horrible experience.
“We will have more to say in the days and weeks ahead. But for now, all our thoughts are with Laura and Euna and their families, who have shown remarkable courage and initiative for the 140 days of this ordeal.”
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement he and wife Maria Shriver were “celebrating” the journalists’ release.
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