North Korea says 2 American journalists have been pardoned

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Mr. Clinton arrived in North Korea Monday night on a diplomatic mission to free Laura Ling and Euna Lee. This news is sparking hopes that the two journalists will soon be reunited with their families, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Hours after being greeted by top government officials in North Korea, a government source told ABC News President Clinton had an emotional meeting with the two women who have been in jail inside the communist regime since March.

He also met with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il.

U.S. government officials are stressing that this is a "private trip" to discuss bringing home the two imprisoned American journalists. But it may provide an opening to improve relations between the two nations, going forward. "It could be a very significant opening in breaking this downward cycle of tension and recriminations between the U.S. and North Korea," said author Mike Chinoy.

Tension between the two countries worsened in June when Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korea in March.

In the months leading up to their conviction, the North Koreans had engaged in many provocative acts, including conducting a nuclear test, launching several long-range missiles and abandoning the six-party talks on nuclear disarmament.

But to the two families praying for a homecoming, all of that is secondary.

The source is hopeful that reunion could happen as soon as Wednesday.

Former Vice President Al Gore owns the network that employs the two women. Sources tell ABC News he personally asked Mr. Clinton to go. His trip follows an apology on behalf of the two women by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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