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Clinton and two freed journalists arrive in Burbank [Updated]

August 5, 2009 |  6:35 am

Former President Clinton and the two California journalists whose freedom he helped secure from prison in North Korea arrived early this morning at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, where they were greeted by dozens of family and friends.

Their private plane landed about 6 a.m. and immediately taxied to a heavily secured hangar to meet the  waiting crowd, which included former Vice President Al Gore and reporters and photographers.

Journalists Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, were greeted by kisses and hugs from sobbing family members, who had not seen them in four months.

An emotional Laura Ling expressed her thanks for all those who helped in gaining their freedom.

"We could feel your love all the way in North Korea," Ling said. "It is what sustained us in our darkest hours. We are very grateful we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea."

[Updated at 6:50 a.m.: As they came off the plane, Ling walked behind Lee and pumped both fists in the air. She was embraced by her sister, mother and husband, followed by other family members.

After a few minutes, Ling walked to a microphone, holding a folded piece of paper from which she read: "Thirty hours ago Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp.

"And then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the door 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."]

The two journalists were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border with China while reporting on fleeing refugees. They were on assignment for San Francisco-based Current TV, a cable and satellite channel co-founded by Gore.

In June, the women were convicted and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering the country and “hostile acts.”

On Tuesday, Clinton, the husband of Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, arrived in North Korea to negotiate their release.

--Raja Abdulrahim