Today former-President Bill Clinton did something amazingly noble. He rescued two American journalists from the terrorist regime of Kim Jong-il in North Korea.
The two journalists, 32-year-old Laura Ling and 36-year-old Euna Lee arrived back on American soil via a private plane owned by real estate heir and major Democratic Party contributor Stephen Bing that carried the two, along with Clinton. It touched down at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif., outside of Los Angeles at 5:50 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Lee and Ling were captured by soldiers in North Korea near the China border nearly five months ago on March 17 when they were accused of illegally entering the country as part of their work for upstart cable news network Current TV, which is the media company founded by former-Vice President Al Gore.
In June, the two reporters were tried for their supposed crime and sentenced to 12 years in a hard labor prison. According to various news reports, such a sentence is generally a death sentence because workers in the labor prison are deprived of food and worked until they die.
Ling and Lee were met by a host of reporters and family that was brought to tears upon seeing them depart the plane, as was evident by the video coverage from this morning.
“Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea,” Ling said to reporters. “We feared that at any moment we could be prisoners in a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, 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.”
One of the first things Lee did upon stepping off the plane was picking up and hugging her 4-year-old daughter Hana.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton played a large role in lobbying to bring the two women home, and President Clinton was then requested as the person to meet with North Korea at the request of Kim Jong-il. The White House then gave the green light to sending him.
In a statement released by the journalists’ families, it was said they were “overjoyed” by the news of the women being pardoned and thanked the Clintons for their work on bringing them home.
“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,” the statement said.
President Clinton went to North Korea as a citizen, taking no message from President Barack Obama and only being able to negotiate the return of the journalists, reports said.
This is a great victory for journalism. In 2008, the Committee to Protect Journalists listed 125 journalists as being in prison for their work world wide. This is down from a high of 139 in 2002.
Any time we get journalists out of jail and back with their families, it is a victory.
What President Clinton did today was heroic. He helped maintain the press freedoms our country holds so dear via the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Had my journalistic career taken a different path, I would have been thrilled to go over seas and cover what is happening in the world. Of course, there would also have been a lot of apprehension knowing what happened to Ling and Lee could have happened to me.
It gives me great comfort, though, that there are powers in our country that respect the work journalist enough to ensure the safety and return when necessary of journalists.
To President Clinton, I say, “Thank you, sir. Bravo.”