Politico reports on the genesis of Bill Clinton's North Korea trip:
A Washington source said the Clinton trip came about after North Korean officials told relatives that the government would release the women to the former president.. The families then approached Clinton.
I have to admit, this does display a certain level of diplomatic sophistication you don't normally associate with the North Koreans. In essentially dictating the American envoy they'd be dealing with, the North Koreans picked one who has much greater cachet than, say, Bill Richardson or Jimmy Carter (who've performed that role in the past) but who isn't so high-profile (such as Obama himself or Hillary) that the administration would have dismissed the North Koreans' offer out of hand. It's a popular game trying to figure out what Kim Jong Il and his ilk actually know about the rest of the world--there's only so much you can learn on the Trans-Siberian Railway--but, at least in this instance, they do seem to have a pretty good understanding of American politics.