North Korea frees U.S. journalists, with assist from Bill Clinton

Nice job, Bill Clinton. A visit from the 42nd president seems to have accomplished what months of diplomacy couldn't, persuading North Korean leader Kim Jong II to release two American journalists who had been looking at 12 years in a labor camp after they were caught straying into the Hermit Kingdom.

According to the Associated Press, Kim issued a "special pardon" for the two journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, just hours after Clinton's arrival in Pyongyang. Both women are employees of Current TV, the network founded by former Al Gore.

Whether their connection to the former vice president was a factor in the initial unyielding stance of the North Korean regime is unclear. Also unclear is whether the sentence they received was in any way a reprisal to an earlier provocation by Ling's sister, Lisa Ling, a former co-host of ABC's The View.

In 2006, Ling traveled to North Korea on assignment for National Geographic Explorer, infiltrating the country, which is almost totally closed to foreign journalists, by posing as a member of a humanitarian medical mission. Even if it had nothing to do with her sister's ordeal, the ethics of that subterfuge probably deserved more scrutiny than they received at the time.

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