A statement from Pyongyang via Reuters:

"Kim Jong-il issued an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission on granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labor in accordance with Article 103 of the Socialist Constitution and releasing them," KCNA said in a statement which carried a Pyongyang dateline.

And so the former president, long dormant, returns to the public eye in a sudden and dramatic way.

--Michael Crowley