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Associated Press, Published August 04 2009

North Korea: 2 US journalists pardoned

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has issued a “special pardon” to two American journalists convicted of sneaking into the country illegally, and he ordered them released during a visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, North Korean media reported today.

The release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee was a sign of North Korea’s “humanitarian and peaceloving policy,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Clinton, who arrived in North Korea today on an unannounced visit, met with the reclusive and ailing Kim – his first meeting with a prominent Western figure since his reported stroke nearly a year ago.

North Korea accused Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, of sneaking into the country illegally in March and engaging in “hostile acts,” and the nation’s top court sentenced them in June to 12 years of hard labor.

For more on the story, see Wednesday’s Forum.