What Went Into Bill Clinton’s Rescue Trip to North Korea

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Photo: Getty Images

Bill Clinton was just one of the names that his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suggested as a special envoy to North Korea. When deciding whom to send to rescue the captive journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, Hillary also thought of Al Gore — who not only is a popular former vice-president, but is also the founder of Current TV, the network for which Lee and Ling worked. Of all the names that came up, Pyongyang was most eager to see Bill Clinton. Clinton has long had a special interest in North Korea, and almost visited the country near the end of his term. (Bush's policy toward North Korea later soured, rather than warmed, the tenuous relationship between the nations.) Al Gore ended up calling Clinton to make the official request for him to go just over a week ago, and once Clinton and the Obama administration got the guarantee that the women would be released, he agreed to the trip. Once on the ground there, the former president offered an apology for the actions of the two women. It is not yet clear what other topics were discussed in the series of meetings that were photographed in images released by the North Korean government news agency. But Clinton, Ling, and Lee have landed in Burbank just now, and the two journalists will be addressing reporters shortly, alongside Al Gore. We'll keep you posted.

In Release of Journalists, Both Clintons Had Key Roles [NYT]

Update: Laura Ling just read a statement, including the following words: "Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard-labor camp. And then, suddenly, we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location, and when we walked through the door, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton. We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free. Euna and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to President Clinton and his wonderful, amazing — not to mention supercool — team." Pretty badass.
Update 2: Obama just had a press conference thanking Bill Clinton and Al Gore for their "extraordinary work." "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," the president said.