6 Aug 2009

Tearful homecoming for freed US journalists

3:33 pm on 6 August 2009

Two United States journalists freed from detention in North Korea have been reunited with their families in Los Angeles.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee flew back to the US with former President Bill Clinton, who secured their release during a meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il.

The women had been found guilty of entering the country illegally earlier this year and sentenced to 12 years' hard labour, but were pardoned by the North Korean president on Wednesday.

Laura Ling threw her arms triumphantly in the air as she descended the steps from Mr Clinton's chartered plane and Euna Lee broke down in tears as she hugged her four-year-old daughter.

Ms Ling has described the moment they realised their ordeal was nearly over, when they were taken to a room and found Mr Clinton standing before them.

She says the past 140 days have been the most difficult and heart-wrenching time of their lives.

US President Barack Obama has expressed relief at the freeing of the two women. He says their release is the result of an extraordinary humanitarian effort by Mr Clinton.

The American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, insists there was no connection between the efforts to free the reporters and North Korea's nuclear ambition, and will not alter the US's approach to the communist nation.