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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Laura and Lisa Ling
Aired May 29, 2010 - 23:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, prime time exclusive -- journalist Laura Ling, on assignment in China, captured, imprisoned in North Korea for crossing the border. She was kicked and beaten, tried and sentenced to 12 years hard labor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA LING, SPENT 140 DAYS IN NORTH KOREAN CAPTIVITY: I could barely stand up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: At home, her sister Lisa suffered just as much. Lisa and Laura are here with their harrowing ordeal -- 140 days of anguish, opposite sides of the globe.
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We welcome Laura Ling and Lisa Ling to LARRY KING LIVE.
They're co-authors of "Somewhere Inside: One Sisters' Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home." There you see its cover.
Laura is the former vice president of Current TV's investigative series "Vanguard."
Lisa, of course, the correspondent for "The Oprah Winfrey Show,"
contributor to "Nightline," and the National Geographic Channel.
It's been more than a year and two months since Laura and Euna Lee were taken captive by the North Koreans and about nine months since they were freed and returned to the United States.
Do you still think about it, Laura?
LAURA LING: Of course I think about it. And I think about how grateful I am to be home.
KING: Lisa, were you -- do you think about it much?
Laura's got to. LISA LING, LAURA LING'S SISTER: Everyday that I spend with my sister, which is quite frequent, I just feel so grateful that she's home. I mean I was actually just thinking about the last time I was sitting here with you. I was with my family and we were making a plea to the North Korean government to -- to release my sister and Euna. And here we are today. And it's surreal. It's -- all of it has been really surreal.
KING: That was some -- some night with your folks.
LISA LING: Yes.
KING: How are they doing?
LISA LING: Everyone's doing great. We -- we just got so lucky. Not everyone is so lucky. And Laura's husband and -- and she have gotten back to normal and...
KING: You're going to have a baby?
LAURA LING: Right, right.
LAURA LING: We're -- a different kind of normal. We feel very blessed.
KING: Did you know, Laura, how much commotion was going on about you?
LAURA LING: I had some idea. I had some idea through letters that I was allowed to receive from my family. But not to the extent -- and I knew through letters that my family had been on your show. And the investigator that was investigating me actually told me that.
So I had some sense, but -- but not the whole picture.
KING: The investigator?
He was doing what?
LAURA LING: He was interrogating me almost the entire time I was there.
KING: How are you physically, by the way?
LAURA LING: I'm good. I'm good. I mean I suffered some -- some trauma when I was first apprehended. And I -- I still experience some pain from some of the beatings that happened when they first apprehended me along the river -- pain in my head and on the side of my face.
But other than that, I feel very good.
KING: We're getting off the course now and I'll go back to the beginning. But I'm fascinated with this.
Why would they beat you?
What was the purpose?
Did they tell you why they were hitting you?
LAURA LING: Well, when we were first apprehended, we were actually apprehended on the Chinese side of the border. We had run back across the river to China and we were -- Euna and I were surrounded by two guards -- two North Korean soldiers. They wanted to get us back to North Korea and do whatever they could to get us back. So...
KING: They hit you.
LAURA LING: So, they hit -- they hit me.
KING: All right. The season premiere, by the way, of Current TV's "Vanguard" series is all about what happened to Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It includes video shot before they were captured. Here's a short clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MARCH 11, 2009)
LAURA LING: So I'm looking across the DMZ, the Korean demilitarized zone. This is the most heavily armed border in the world. And -- and just right across there is North Korea, which is quite possibly the most secretive, most mysterious country in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What were the two of you doing?
LAURA LING: We were in China, along the border with North Korea, to
cover a story about the plight of North Korean defectors -- people who
are fleeing the desperate conditions in North Korea. And, as a result, they are crossing this river over to China. But that doesn't mean that their life is -- is -- it doesn't mean that they're free. In China,
China doesn't regard these refugees -- these -- these defectors as refugees. And
they will send them back across to North Korea -
KING: They will?
LAURA LING: So -- where they face certain punishment.
KING: Why don't they go to South Korea?
LAURA LING: Well, many of them try, but it's so hard to make it across to South Korea. And many of the women end up being trafficked into prostitution and force into marriages.
KING: Did you warn your sister? Lisa, did you warn her that there's danger there?
LISA LING: I didn't warn her on this trip because there was never any intention to go to North Korea. Laura had told me about a week before she was to leave on this trip that she was just going to South Korea and to China to work on this story...
KING: So you weren't living in any fear?
LISA LING: I wasn't. I wasn't. This trip was supposed to be a week- and-a-half long. We had made plans for the day Laura was to come back. And, unfortunately, that -- that -- that -- that didn't happen.
KING: All right. What -- what -- did you go into North Korea?
LAURA LING: I did.
LAURA LING: Well, it really just evolved in that -- in that moment in time, Larry. We went to the river. We went to the river to film this thoroughfare where these defectors are crossing. We wanted to give our viewers a sense of this terrain.
And we were with a guide.
And foreign journalists often hire local fixers or guides to help them. And our guide proceeded to walk across the ice toward the North Korean side. This is somebody who seemed very trustworthy in the days leading up to this moment. And he motioned for us to follow. And we did. And we were on the other side of the river. He said that there are some safe houses in this village where defectors are kept until they are smuggled across the border. We thought he was trying to show us this -- this village.
And after about a minute, we turned back to leave. We knew that this was not the place where we should be.
KING: Was the guy a con man?
LAURA LING: I -- I don't know and I don't like to speculate.
KING: The girls will be -- the ladies will be reading from their book.
Laura and Euna were together in a cell for the first few days of their captivity. During that time, Laura spotted something that lent a poignant perspective on the situation.
You want to read what you wrote about that?
LAURA LING: Sure.
"I noted some Korean characters that were lightly etched into the wall. It was a kind of Korean prison graffiti. 'What does it say?,' I whispered. 'I miss my mom,' Euna translated. I tried to imagine who had been in this cell before us, as well as who was being held in the nearby cells. Unlike us, they were not allowed to use the toilets whenever they asked nor were they given special meals and allowed to talk to each other. But like all people who are isolated from society, we all missed our mothers."
KING: The guests are Laura and Lisa Ling. The book is "Somewhere Inside."
Lots more to come.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA LING: So this is the closest that you'll get to North Korea. And people have come here and have left messages on these -- on these ribbons here, messages to -- to send off to blow off to -- to North Korea. This message here was left by a North Korean defector who escaped here to South Korea. And right here, it says: "I pray every day to see my mom soon."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we go back to the story, how did the writing take place?
Lisa, how did it work?
You wrote, she wrote?
How did it work?
LISA LING: Well, we -- we wrote independently but we did write together.
And writing this book was actually great for us because it just gave us an excuse to be together more.
But we, at a certain point, combined the things that we wrote, because this is all what happened -- what might -- the diplomatic efforts on the outside that I was trying to instigate were happening as she was inside North Korea.
And after a couple of months, we combined what we were writing. And even though I had known the stories that Laura had told, I was really moved by how she actually wrote them.
KING: Did you know if your mail was getting there?
How could you know?
LISA LING: We did have a good sense...
KING: Really? LISA LING: -- that most of the letters were -- were getting to her. We weren't certain that all of them were. But Laura was able to make four phone calls to us throughout the course of her detainment. And we did discuss some of the letters.
KING: Why do you think they let you, Laura?
LAURA LING: Well, I think that they themselves were reading these letters for information from -- from my family and what news that could contain. On some of the letters, I would actually see coffee stains and -- and wonder who had -- who had -- whose eyes had perused these letters before mine.
LISA LING: And we -- we were told by the State Department that American detainees in North Korea had never been allowed phone calls. And many of them had probably never even been allowed letters. But the -- the Swedish diplomat, who was based in Pyongyang -- because the United States and -- and North Korea don't directly communicate. They communicate through a third party country in Sweden.
So the Swedish ambassador told us, well, we could try to write a letter.
And so in the very first letter, we tried to exercise extreme caution and we were very, very careful about what we wrote. And we think that that first differential, apologetic letter was what led the way.
KING: Concerning that, do you want to read from the book about Sweden?
LISA LING: Well, this is a -- this is a bit...
KING: They gave -- they were the liaisons, so they delivered this?
LISA LING: Yes. This is -- this is the letter that I -- we wrote to Laura.
"Our dearest Laura, we miss you so much. Please be strong and know that everyone is doing all they can for you and Euna. We're holding you in our hearts every second of the day and night. Friends and family from every corner of the world are sending you positive thoughts. We know that those in whose care you are are not harming you and that you are safe. Please be respectful to them. Stay strong, baby girl. We know you'll -- we'll see you very soon."
And the idea...
LISA LING: -- behind writing this letter was to communicate to Laura that she should be respectful and that we were going to be apologetic and respectful to them.
KING: Did you ever think, Laura, you were going to spend a lot of years there? LAURA LING: I tried to maintain hope as much as I could. But, of course, there were times when I didn't know. And the thought of spending most of my adult life in a labor camp did cross my mind.
KING: What were the charges?
LAURA LING: The charges were trespassing and hostile acts. And, really, when -- when you look at the sentence, it was...
KING: What was the sentence, by the way?
LAURA LING: The sentence was 12 years in a hard labor camp. But the -- the main charge was for the hostile acts. It really -- they were less concerned about the act of crossing the river than they were about our intentions. And I was -- I gave a confession after a lengthy interrogation. The interrogator basically indicated that if I confessed to trying to bring down the North Korean government, that there might be a chance that they would forgive me.
KING: Was this in court or a?
LAURA LING: It was in a court. There was a judge and a couple of associates with him.
KING: Any audience?
LAURA LING: No. There -- and I had a defense attorney, who I met the week before the trial, after I had issued a written confession. The judge deliberated for a whole five minutes before coming back and handing down the sentence.
KING: When you heard it, what did you think?
LAURA LING: I could barely stand up. I...
KING: How about Euna?
LAURA LING: Euna and I were not together when we got the sentence. But we were then brought together at the -- at the end of the trial. And she -- she, too, was in hysterics.
KING: Were you together all the time?
LAURA LING: We were not. Euna and I were together six days -- the first six days of our captivity. And then we were separated.
LISA LING: They saw each other briefly the day of the trial, but then that was it, until the very end.
LAURA LING: Until the very last day.
LISA LING: So for months, they were separated.
KING: When you heard the sentence, Lisa, what did you think?
Because that was news. LISA LING: Well, we were expecting to hear a severe sentence. But when you hear that your little sister has been sentenced to 12 years hard labor, I mean, that's not something that was easy to take. And then we also heard no appeal.
And so we had heard that if the -- the sentence could be severe, but then we could continue to try and negotiate or try to explore diplomatic routes to get them out. But then when we heard no appeal, we just thought, could -- could we be doomed here?
KING: What kind of cell were you in?
What was the conditions?
LAURA LING: In the first two days, we were put in a jail -- very dismal conditions, a five by six foot cell. I was by myself -- a concrete floor, a wooden palette for a bed, pitch black if they closed a couple of slats and they would...
KING: What kind of bathroom facility?
LAURA LING: It was a -- a hold in -- in the ground and no running water. And there was no -- no electricity and no water, just a big bucket of water next to this hole.
And then we were moved to Pyongyang. That's when Euna and I were separated. And the conditions improved. I was in a compound. I had a bed in a room with an adjoining bathroom. Of course, water and power outages happened throughout the day and it was extremely cold. But I felt very fortunate to be in a room.
KING: Were a lot of Korean prisoners there?
LAURA LING: In the actual jail, there were -- there were a couple of other prisoners that we could hear, but we never saw them.
KING: We'll be right back.
The book is "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home."
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY KXTV)
LISA LING: Our two countries don't have a diplomatic relationship, so communication between them is very limited. We know that the -- the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been rather tense of late. And we just hope that for this issue and for this moment, they can put those things temporarily aside or at least engage in a dialogue to try and secure their release.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Laura and Lisa Ling.
Were you questioned every day, Laura?
LAURA LING: Every day until the trial -- practically every day. On the weekends, sometimes I was not.
KING: What about in -- while in jail?
LAURA LING: In jail, I was also questioned for several -- several hours when they first moved me into the jail.
KING: What kind of food did they give you?
LAURA LING: The food was basic, but decent. I got three meals a day -- very small portions -- a bowl of rice, a small bowl of soup, maybe a small piece of fish.
LAURA LING: But I felt fortunate that I was getting three meals a day when so many people in North Korea are going hungry.
KING: What were the guards like?
LAURA LING: There were female guards, one who always spoke a little bit of English. At first, they were extremely stern, cold, curt.
But I wanted to develop some sort of connection with them, because I was so alone. And over time, we did experience some different moments -- some different endearing moments. And I -- I think that they came to actually want me to go home.
KING: Laura tried to protect her parents in her letters and calls to them. She was a lot more frank and urgent in communicating with Lisa. You've got an excerpt where Laura laid it on the line to you.
LISA LING: I do. Laura was able to send a couple of letters out only on one occasion. And this -- the first time that I had actually seen her handwriting was when a letter came through the Swedish Embassy to the State Department then finally to me.
And Laura wrote to our parents, her husband, her employer and one letter to me. And the letter she wrote to our parents was very much, I'm OK, don't worry, I -- I -- I'm being treated fairly.
And the letter to me was a bit more urgent.
This is part of it.
"I'm in the worst possible situation. I have confessed to some very serious crimes that are regarded as hostile actions toward the DPRK" -- Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "And while I've expressed my deepest regret for my wrongdoings, I'm not sure if it will be enough to send me home anytime soon. I am scared." KING: Why were you so frank with your sister?
LAURA LING: Well, you know, Lisa and I share an incredible bond. We are best friends. And I also knew that if somebody could potentially move the needle, it would be Lisa. And I knew that she would be absolutely relentless in trying to get me home.
So I knew that I was putting a lot of pressure on her. That hurt me to write -- to write in that way. But she's -- she's my sister. She'd do anything for me.
LISA LING: In fact, Larry, when -- when we were on your show making the appeal, I remember my -- my parents read one of the letters that Laura wrote. And Iain, her husband, wrote a letter. And I just said I didn't -- I didn't receive, anything because I didn't want my parents to know that Laura had written me a separate letter that was more urgent.
KING: Speaking of that, after more than two months of making almost no public comments about their loved ones' situation, Laura and Euna's families decided it was time to speak out, but very carefully. Lisa and Laura's husband Ian (ph), made personal appeals to North Korea on this show June 1.
Here's a little of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, June 1, 2009)
LISA LING: We don't know the details of what happened on March 17.
But if at any point the girls went into North Korea, then we apologize on their behalf. They never intended to do so. And we are sorry. And we -- we beg your government to allow my sister and Michael's wife and Hannah's mother to come home.
IAIN CLAYTON, LAURA LING'S HUSBAND: Laura is my wife. I miss her desperately. You know, she has a medical condition in which we fear has -- has been exacerbated by this situation. And for whatever they did, we know that when they set out, they didn't have any intent to do -- to cross into North Korean soil. And, you know, we -- we apologize for that and for them and just, you know, we want them to -- to come home -- to come home to their -- to their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What's it like to watch that, Laura?
LAURA LING: Very, very difficult. It -- Larry, your show was the only show that I watched when I came home. And I couldn't watch anything else because watching the grief on my family's faces was too hard to bear.
So I watched that a couple weeks after I got back. And that clip was the -- the second time I've seen it.
KING: What was the medical condition he was talking about? LAURA LING: I had an ulcer and I suffer from ulcers. And so I had...
KING: The food couldn't have helped.
LAURA LING: Yes, just being there, the stress didn't help. And there were a lot of flare-ups. And I -- I -- I had a tough time.
LISA LING: And that was a huge concern to us because we had so little information about her. I mean she had had this serious ulcer for a while before she even left this trip. And, as you know, stress exacerbates that. And we didn't know if she was actually getting the medication. We didn't know if her condition had worsened. I mean that was one of the most challenging things was just knowing how -- what kind of health and condition they were in.
KING: It's terrible not knowing, isn't it?
LISA LING: It is. It is. It's...
KING: It's almost as bad as being there. Not -- not as bad.
LISA LING: Well...
KING: It's pretty bad.
LISA LING: -- it's bad. Laura and I have worked as journalists for most of our careers and we have been able to call each other from as far away as the Himalayas or Kazakhstan. And so for her to be in this place where we had absolutely no communication, and those rare times when we did, we knew that there were people listening on the phone calls, listening to every word, and reading everything that we put to paper, was hugely unnerving.
KING: We'll be right back with Laura and Lisa Ling. The book is "Somewhere Inside," published by Morrow. Don't go away.
KING: About a week after Laura's trial, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to impose more sanctions on Pyongyang because of its renewed nuclear program. United States-North Korean relations seemed to be deteriorating by the moment.
And it was around this time that you were approached about a possible rescue mission. What do you -- what do you make of that?
LAURA LING: It was the most unreal situation for things to be getting so bad. And to -- to not know what our fate could be.
KING: Who approached who, Lisa?
LISA LING: About the -- a rescue mission?
LISA LING: Well, we weren't ready to rule out anything, and -- KING: Who was that? Ross Perot?
LISA LING: Well, we -- including Ross Perot. Whomever. And we had been waiting for a diplomatic effort to -- to do something. And we were just there -- there would just be long periods of silence. And so I was solicited by someone who works for -- or who was formerly part of JSOC, which -- the clandestine U.S. military organization. He's -- he's currently former JSOC.
And he said that he -- for -- for a fee, he could try and provide services to try and get eyes on my sister in Euna. That there was an underground network that they could try and employ. And -- and -- and figure out their whereabouts. Because again, we had no idea where they were.
KING: You give him money?
LISA LING: We didn't -- we didn't -- we didn't actually go through with it because I just felt like it would be too far -- too far big a risk. But it was something that I always kind of kept in the back of my head if diplomatic efforts didn't work.
KING: I understand that you've got some health concerns after the trial too?
LAURA LING: Yes, and I got very, very sick after the trial. A number of times -- one of the worst times was right before our actual release. I had a running fever. I was hooked up to an I.V. drip for several days with very rudimentary medical tools. So in order to put this I.V. drip up, they had to put a clothes rack on top of a table on top of a stack of books and hang it by a sock.
I felt grateful that they were at least trying to keep me well. And -- and -- and thought that that was a good sign that I was still worth something to them.
KING: What keeps you going?
LAURA LING: Now?
LAURA LING: Then? You know, Larry, I -- I actually practice the art of gratitude every single night. And I thought to myself, what has happened in the day that I feel fortunate about? For example, I'm fortunate I got three meals a day, even though they're so small. Or I'm fortunate I saw a butterfly outside my window, even though I can't smell the fresh air.
And those things actually kept me going.
KING: Very Eastern philosophy, right? Whatever seems bad, make good.
LISA LING: But Larry, Laura also -- at a certain point I think she realized that if I'm -- if I'm ever going to get out of here, I need to figure out how it's going to happen. And so again, phone calls from American --
LISA LING: -- detainees had never been allowed. But Laura convinced her captors, "If you let me call my sister, we can try and figure out what needs to be done."
KING: There was a change in those captors, right? If you had a different person in charge?
LAURA LING: There was. So they switched over --
KING: Did that help?
LAURA LING: -- way through. It was -- it was scary actually a bit. I was -- I was being now overseen by new people that I had to get to know. But throughout the entire time I did try to strategize. And try to say what is it that they want? How can I talk -- communicate with these people so that they can give me clues as to what was -- what was needed?
KING: Lisa, you write that your mother almost went crazy?
LISA LING: She did almost go crazy. She stopped showering, and would walk around the house like a zombie. And it really gave both of us a different perspective. Because we've been doing this kind of work for a long time. And to say that the impact that it had on our parents was really hard.
KING: Now you're working with -- you're trying to get Al Gore to go, Bill Richardson, John Kerry, former President Carter was ready to go. What happened there?
LISA LING: Well, the -- the behind the scenes was -- was pretty surreal. Laura was communicating with her interrogators about what -- what envoy or which envoy would be appropriate? We thought for a while that Governor Richardson would be allowed. We thought that Vice President Gore would be accepted. There were conversations that Laura had with her -- her captors about former President Carter.
And at a certain point I think that they -- they wanted President Clinton. There was --
KING: They wanted --
LISA LING: They wanted President Clinton. And -- and somehow they communicated that to Laura, who then communicated it to me. And I had kind of gotten a sense, because I -- I had been to North Korea years ago. I had worked on a very critical documentary for North -- for National Geographic about North Korea which complicated Laura's situation. At one point, they accused the two of us of wanting to overthrow the North Korean government. And while I was there in 2007, they had talked to me about their regard for President Clinton. So I knew that they -- that they had warm feelings about him. But when -- when that request came out of Laura's mouth, I immediately discounted it. Because he is married after all to the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
And the complications involved to me --
LISA LING: -- were -- were huge.
KING: We'll be right back with Laura and Lisa Ling. Came down to Bill Clinton, didn't it? We'll talk about that after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What was it like to take those two girls out?
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was humbling and it was a wonderful feeling. They're really fine young women.
KING: It was a done deal, right?
CLINTON: Well, it was -- basically, the proposal was that, if there were no glitches, if I would come and get them, we would let them go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I know President Obama was involved. Everyone was contacted. People contacting people. Break it down for me, Lisa. How did the Bill Clinton thing come about?
LISA LING: At one point, Laura was asking me on the phone for either President Carter or President Clinton. And knowing that President Clinton was so complicated, or at least we thought that it was very complicated, we thought, let's try to see if President Carter would agree to go. He did and we were so grateful. Not even -- about two weeks after we believed President Carter's name had been floated to the North Koreans, I got a call from Laura saying, I made a mistake, it has to be President Clinton.
KING: The interrogator told you that?
LAURA LING: That's right.
LISA LING: I mean, it was a complicated thing and when I heard this, I was apoplectic because you didn't know if this was coming to Laura, I didn't know if it was coming from her captors. We're talking about former presidents of the United States, here. We're not just talking about some regular Joe American. So I couldn't be certain that this was directly coming from them, so I tried to downplay expectations, because I think that what North Korea was trying to do was communicate these requests to me, and they saw that we were actually executing what they wanted. So they kept upping the ante. My fear was that would continue to up that ante and request President Obama, which we knew we couldn't get.
So when the President Clinton request came out of Laura's mouth, I said, Laura, I don't know if I can pull this one off. This is very, very complicated. I kept saying that over and over because I wanted her captors to know that if we were successful at getting President Clinton, then we had to go for it, we had to move forward.
KING: What did they want for him? What was the deal? They let you go, if what?
LAURA LING: There was no deal. What President Clinton said on the plane ride home was that Kim Jong-il said to him, you were the first person who reached out to me when my father, Kim il-Sung died, even before my allies. I've always remembered that. I've always respected you for it and I've always wanted to meet you.
LISA LING: We think that Kim Jong-Il just wanted to meet President Clinton. When we all collectively got President Clinton to agree to go, somehow I just knew it was going to be OK, because President Clinton just has that universal appeal. I just felt confident that if he's able to get over there, then Laura and Euna would be able to come home.
KING: On the plane, Doug Brant, his top advisor e-mails you. Want to read what he wrote?
LISA LING: The airplane that they flew over on, Steve Bang (ph), a producers in front of Bill Clinton's plane, was fully stocked. Doug and I were emailing back and forth and we were just waiting. Every time my BlackBerry -- it flashed and we got an e-mail from Doug, we would hover around it. One of them said, we have them. He wrote, we're on our way to Japan. They're both doing well.
Minutes later, another e-mail said, "they're in good stead, relaxing and having juice. We're all trying to be Jewish mothers. I ran into my mother's arms and then my father's. Mom and dad then embraced each other and I gave Ian a hug. She's coming home, I whispered to my sister's eager husband. It's finally over."
KING: When did you first see President Clinton?
LAURA LING: I saw him the day before I was on that plane. Euna and I were taken to a hotel. We didn't know for sure who the envoy was going to be.
KING: You knew you were getting out though? Or released?
LAURA LING: Didn't exactly know it. I was told that an important envoy was coming to see me. If things went well, we might be going home. If things didn't go well, we would not be going home. They told me that it was one of the envoys that I requested, but they didn't tell me it was President Clinton. We were ushered down this hallway with rows of North Korean secret service agents. At the end of the hallway, there's this bald guy with a suit and an earpiece --
LISA LING: White guy.
LAURA LING: And it was the U.S. Secret Service. And I just felt the presence of my country. Then door -- I was ushered into a room, and these doors were open and standing before us was President Bill Clinton, who we now call our Rescuer in Chief.
KING: What a sight.
LAURA LING: It was unbelievable.
KING: Laura is expecting a baby. We'll get some details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA LING: 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. We were taken to a location and when we walked in through the doors, we saw, standing before us, President Bill Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Time now for another moment in "LARRY KING LIVE" history. In 1992, Ross Perot shocked the nation, announcing he'd run for president, right here on "LARRY KING LIVE." Watch.
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KING (on camera): Any scenario under which you would run for president? Can you give me a scenario under which you'd say okay, I'm in?
ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Number one, I don't want it.
KING (voice-over): What a night that was. I had asked him three times previously because I got a tip from a friend who said I think Ross is interested in running.
PEROT: If you, the people, are that serious, you register me in 50 states. And if you're not willing to organize and do that, then --
KING: Wait a minute.
PEROT: -- this is all just talk.
KING (voice-over): There were two minutes to go in the show. I said, one last chance. Is there any circumstance under which you could run? He said, well, you put me on the ballot in 50 states. Now we finish.
KING (on camera): Wait.
PEROT: I'm saying to the ordinary folks -- I don't want any machine --
KING: This is a draft Ross Perot --
PEROT: No, no, no. I'm not asking to be drafted.
KING (voice-over): Two days later, he called me and said you know something, I got back to the hotel, and under my door was an envelope from the bellman. He left me $10. Something could start here. And then three nights later, Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News ran clips of that and what might be the coming Perot phenomenon.
PEROT: I'm saying to all these nice people that have written me and the letters, you know, fill cases. If you're dead serious --
KING: Start committees. In Florida, Georgia.
PEROT: I want to see some sweat.
KING: I like Ross. Ross is cantankerous. He's Ross, man. He's Ross.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to just make a brief comment about the fact that the two young journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling are safely back with their families. Not only is this White House obviously extraordinarily happy, but all Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work.
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KING: August 4th, 2009, a 737 carrying Laura, Euna, former President Clinton and others arrives at Bob Hope's Burbank Airport. It was a joyful family reunion. Watch.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please help me in welcoming home Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
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KING: I imagine Bill talked a lot.
LAURA LING: He shared a bit about what happened on the ground, and how he and his team really had to walk the political tightrope. There was a two page itinerary set for them to go see these various monuments, a show -- a whole stadium full of thousands of child performers, which they had to graciously decline, because they were there to get us and do nothing more than that.
President Clinton was amazing. He just had such fatherly concern for our well being.
KING: You -- I want you to read something you wrote near the very end of the book
LAURA LING: OK. "I often think about the people I met during my captivity. I wonder what Mr. Yi (ph), Mr. Beck (ph), Minjin (ph), Kyung-hi (ph), Paris (ph), and all the others are doing and what kind of lives they're living. Have they gone back to their old jobs? Is their patriotism for the country as fervent as it was before? Did their experience with me change their views of Americans or the United States in any way? I will always be grateful for the glimmers of compassion and humanity they showed me. And I hope one day and their fellow North Koreans are allowed the freedom to determine their own destiny."
KING: You liked some of your captors.
LAURA LING: I did. I developed some very human bonds with them and shared some very compassionate moments.
KING: No Swedish syndrome though?
LAURA LING: No. I don't hold the same regard for the government of North Korea.
KING: What was it like for you, Lisa, to have them come down those steps?
LISA LING: It was -- it was by far the greatest day of my life. I mean, to actually see my sister in person after nearly five months of not knowing where she was incredible. I mean, just before Laura's husband and I had a little chat with each other and we said, do you think she'll be the same, what do you think she'll look like, and so on. And I -- from the second I saw her and I held her face in my hands at the airport and -- and we just said our first words, I knew she was going to be OK.
KING: What brought it off? What, in retrospect, did it?
LISA LING: Well, I think just our ability to communicate really allowed North Korea and the United States to talk more directly. I mean, it was such a circuitous way our country's communicate, if they communicate at all. And I think that they figured out that by letting Laura and me talk, somehow they would be able to communicate to our country.
KING: Laura, does it also tell us that maybe people should talk more?
LAURA LING: Well, I can certainly say that I -- I developed a better understanding for my captors and they of me. And I hope that they have a wider perspective about Americans and the United States.
KING: Will this cause you to take heart on future trips anywhere? LAURA LING: Well, right now, I'm focusing on this, right here in my belly.
KING: Yeah, when are you due?
LAURA LING: Due in June. Very soon.
LAURA LING: Yeah.
KING: What is it? What is it? Do you say it? What is it?
LAURA LING: We're expecting a baby girl, and --
KING: Do you have a name?
LAURA LING: Li, after my sister.
KING: What an honor.
LISA LING: Yeah, it's pretty -- pretty shocking and amazing that the year Laura is sentenced to 12 years hard labor, she conceives a child.
LAURA LING: And I do want to continue to use my voice and we want to use my voice and we want to continue raise awareness --
KING: You're going to continue to report?
LAURA LING: I think so, at some point in time. But really, I mean, I want people to be aware of the issue that we went to cover, which is the plight of these North Korean defectors.
KING: You are two amazing people. You are sisters proving that sisters can pull it off.
LAURA LING: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Laura Ling, Lisa Ling, the book "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home."
"AC360" starts right now.