Laura Ling thanked Bill Clinton and his “super-cool team” on Wednesday for winning her release from North Korea and said she feared before seeing him she was being taken to a hard labor camp.
"The past 140 days have been the most difficult heart-wrenching time of our lives. We are very grateful that we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea and we are so happy to be home," Ling told hundreds of reporters as the pair were tearfully reunited with their families in Burbank, California.
"Thirty hours ago Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea," she said.
"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 doors, we saw standing before us president Bill Clinton."
Ling and Lee, two US journalists, faced 12 years' hard labor before they were pardoned by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il following Clinton's surprise mission — the highest-level US trip to North Korea in almost a decade.
"Euna and I would just like to express our deepest gratitude to president Clinton and his wonderful, amazing, not to mention super-cool team ... and the United States Secret Service who traveled half way around the world, and then some, to secure our release," she added.
An emotional Ling also thanked President Barack Obama, Swedish diplomats "and I know that I am forgetting a bunch of instrumental people right now, but forgive me if I'm a little incoherent."