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Sister: Journalists jailed in North Korea asked for Clinton

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Sister: Euna Lee "skinny," Laura Ling struggling to talk because of isolation
  • NEW: Laura Ling told family, "It would have to be President Clinton," Lisa Ling says
  • Laura Ling plans to detail what transpired, sister says
  • Euna Lee's daughter keeps following her, Lisa Ling says
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(CNN) -- Journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee told Ling's sister they were treated humanely in North Korea, and they believe they weren't sent to hard-labor camps because they have medical conditions, Lisa Ling said Friday.

Freed journalist Euna Lee is followed by Laura Ling off their plane Wednesday in California.

Lisa Ling, left, and her sister, Laura, center, speak to their father Wednesday after Laura arrived in California.

The sister, speaking on CNN's "American Morning," did not elaborate on the medical conditions, but said her sister will soon tell her story.

"Laura is eager to tell the story about what happened. I want to let her do so, but right now, she's really getting reacclimated. The processes are slow. She's very, very weak," Lisa Ling said, adding that the stories she's heard so far are "jaw-dropping."

Laura Ling and Lee were working for California-based Current TV, a media venture of former Vice President Al Gore, when they were arrested in March for crossing the border between China and North Korea. Video Watch Lisa Ling share her sister's story »

Lisa Ling said that before they left the United States, the pair never intended to cross into North Korea. They have acknowledged that they briefly did, however, and they were convicted of entering the country illegally to conduct a "smear campaign" against the reclusive Communist state.

They were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labor. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, pardoned the women Tuesday after meeting with former President Bill Clinton. They arrived home the following day.

Lisa Ling said her sister was allowed to call the family on four occasions during her five months in captivity. On the last call, Laura Ling specifically requested that Clinton intervene.

"She said that in her opinion -- quote, unquote -- it would have to be President Clinton. It could only be President Clinton to secure the release of herself and Euna. We immediately jumped into action and alerted Vice President Gore," Lisa Ling said.

When their release was secured, they promptly boarded a plane home. Clinton wanted them to rest because they were clearly tired, "but the two of them were chatting away and comparing their experiences," Lisa Ling said.

Laura Ling and Lee went to see doctors Thursday, the sister added. Laura Ling is "doing well," and Lee is "skinny," Lisa Ling said, joking that her mother tried to force-feed Lee on Thursday "because she's just become so diminutive."

The women also are slowly working to assimilate to their freedom. They were kept at opposite ends of the same North Korean detention facility, and though Laura Ling had two guards in her room at all times, she would sometimes go weeks without talking to anyone. Video Watch as Lisa Ling describes the pair's condition »

"So even communicating is a challenge because she sometimes yesterday was even having a hard time getting full sentences out, so it's a slow adjustment," Lisa Ling said.

On Thursday, Lisa Ling told CNN that her sister was "incredibly emotional" and didn't want to be left alone after months of "relative isolation."

"Yesterday, she was so exhausted and she wanted to take a quick nap. She kept asking me: 'Are you going to be here when I come back?' " the sister said Thursday.

Emotions have run high in Lee's home as well, Lisa Ling said. Video Watch the journalists' family reunions »

"I hear from Euna's husband, Michael, that Hana, their 4-year-old daughter, has not wanted her mother to leave her sight," she said. "She just keeps following her around from room to room because she doesn't want her mom to leave."

Lee and her husband went to Laura Ling's house Thursday night for their first pizza since being released, Lisa Ling said Friday.

"The thing that was so wonderful to see was little Hana," she said. "I have never seen her so happy, and we all sort of remarked that it was just a beautiful thing."

Lisa Ling said her sibling will soon share her "powerful" story, perhaps in an op-ed piece, but she needs space right now.


Lisa Ling, meanwhile, is elated that her sister and Lee are safe. She said she always knew they would come home.

"I believe in the fundamental goodness," she said. "I knew in my heart that at some point, Laura and Euna would be returned back to us. I didn't know when it would happen, but I never lost that hope."

All About North KoreaLaura LingEuna Lee

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