The two American TV journalists sentenced to prison in North Korea were given a "special pardon" by the country's leader Kim Jong Il on Tuesday, following a visit by former President Bill Clinton, according to reports.
CNN said the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee is a sign of North Korea's "humanitarian and peace-loving policy."
Ling — sister of former View co-host Lisa Ling — and Lee were arrested while reporting on the border between North Korea and China in March. The reporters, working for Al Gore's California-based media venture, Current TV, were sentenced in June to 12 years in labor camps for entering the country illegally with "extremely rude political motives."
Clinton met with the ailing leader during an unannounced visit to North Korea, which has no diplomatic relationships with the United States. Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Obama's administration dropped the request for the release of the journalists on humanitarian grounds and instead was seeking amnesty.
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Though the Korean Central News Agency reported that Clinton "courteously conveyed a verbal message" from Obama during the sit-down, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denied that Clinton delivered a message from the Obama administration, according to CNN.
Gibbs said Clinton was on a "solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans."
A statement from their families was posted Tuesday on their website:
"The families of Laura Ling and Euna Lee are overjoyed by the news of their pardon. We are so grateful to our government: President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the U.S. State Department for their dedication to and hard work on behalf of American citizens. 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."