August 26th, 2010
10:21 PM ET

Carter returning from North Korea with detained American

Gomes, seen here attending a rally in South Korea in January, was pardoned by North Korea, the Carter Center says.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is leaving North Korea with a U.S. citizen who was imprisoned in the communist country after entering it illegally in January, according to the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 31, of Boston, Massachusetts, was imprisoned in January and later sentenced to eight years of hard labor with a fine of about $600,000 for the crime of illegal entry into North Korea.

"At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-Il," the Carter Center said in a statement.

Carter arrived in North Korea on Wednesday to negotiate Gomes' release. Carter traveled in his capacity as a private citizen, senior administration officials told CNN earlier. They added Carter had contacted the administration of President Barack Obama about the mission.

Two American journalists - Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had crossed the border into North Korea in March 2009 and were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor - were released in August after an intervention by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

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Filed under: North Korea
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. E

    Why did he go to nk in the first place...these former presidents got nothing else better to do

    August 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • asrael

      That's right, E: helping free an American citizen is such a worthless undertaking...

      August 27, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. LMD

    Am sure all the conservatives will find something snide to say. I did not see any of the republicans go to secure the release of any Americans being imprisoned. I wonder how faux news will spin this..

    August 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Papadopoulos

      Nobody is asking the question: Why are Democrats so well connected with these communist North Korean leaders. Remember Bill Clinton rescuing those 2 americans from North Korea? Could it be that they are alligned with communist beliefs. Republicans would never be allowed anywhere near North Korea

      August 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • adam

      Mike
      Why did the Reagan administration sell guns to Iran??

      August 27, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • asrael

      Something new to offer any time soon, Mike...?

      August 27, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. greg hennessy

    Hey guys. The U.S. does not have a direct diplomatic relationship and is under sanctions. The sitting U.S. president or State Department cannot visit or enter into direct talks with N. Korea.

    However, do you really think ex U.S. presidents are going rogue. This is an unofficial official back channel to get these citizens released. I would think the U.S. is tired of sending ex-presidents to N. Korea to drag our citizens out. Plus, this is an accomplishment when U.S. and N. Korea tensions are high.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. brandon Martinez

    Carlos. I was an SK3 in the USN. I'm not saying start a war for an idiot like Gomes, however, for one of our own it seems like it would be the right thing to do when we "leave no man behind"

    August 26, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMD

      That is why we have such a thing as diplomacy,and people like Bill Clinton,Jimmy Carter. They do not go in with guns blazing and the rhetoric of war. They do something quite unique in this day and age. They talk.

      August 26, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chaz

    To get Gomez out was secondary to the real objective which is gaining valuable insight into the minds of their leaders and creating an atmosphere where their can be further negotiations,expect some form of cooperation in the future.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rightandleft

    I have to wonder why such releases of hostage American citizens have not been successfully accomplished by any of our heroes from the GOP's side of the fence? Am I missing one? Please let me know if I am. Whether ex-Presidents or not, it just never seems to happen that way. Why?

    August 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMD

      Short answer..they do not go in with talk of war. They talk. And maybe this type of article and deed highlights just what we know about the GOP,they talk the talk,but never walk the walk.

      August 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Well, it would be my GUESS (whether correct or otherwise).. that either ex-Rep Presidents can't be bothered to do this sort of negotiation.. or that possibly other Countries just don't want to deal with Reps!. If the second proves to be true, could you blame them? Haha!

      August 26, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. SR

    So where are all the "Carter is the worst president ever that started this whole economic downfall" remarks from the wacko right wing?

    August 26, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMD

      They cannot refute what isin front of them. That not one of their precious GOP war mongers did it.

      August 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. trieu

    I wonder why did these citizens try to enter this country illegally? It just caused more problems for our government when it sent some guys like Carter or Clinton to see and beg the worst dictator for his pardon.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brett

    Now THAT's thinking with yer dipstick, Jimmy!

    August 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. slinky

    Hahahaha!!! He gets dissed by Kim Jong mini-me, and he still gets to bring the guy home!!
    Carter is a joke, but when they need a high profile diplomat that takes the ridicule these haughty jack-asses demand in exchange for certain public concession, he's The Man!!

    August 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • LMD

      Well this "joke" as you so politely put it,got the job done. It begs the question,where are the exes Bush? Why have they not done anything humanitarian and tried for the release of other Americans imprisoned throughout the world?

      August 26, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • slinky

      Left or wright, he's unique. Being humble at this level of exposure gets the job done, but it doesn't set you up for a Nobel Peace Prize...

      August 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. alvin

    Mike Papadopoulos, The Reason Democrats go is because Republicans are too cowardly to put their lives on the line for someone else.

    I think you should do a bit of research on the origins of neo conservatives who run your party before you sling around the word Communist.

    A good place to start is Irving Kristol.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      There's some truth to that, but the point is obfuscated by the 'cowardly' slur. In fact, a person who is prone to focus on the concerns of self or of clan tends to vote Republican, while the person more concerned with being or appearing munificent to those outside of clan or creed tends to vote Democrat. And since these personality traits tend to be hard wired into us, so too our political affiliation.

      August 26, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Syzygy

    Mr. Gomes was exchanged for 100 liters of cognac and an iPod.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Marsh

    He should have stayed.
    Would improve both countries.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Exposo

    Here comes Carter back with another American of convenience. People who acquire US citizenship so they can go back home and use it as leverage against their home governments should be STRIPPED of citizenship.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel Mark

    Not to cut N. Korea any slack, but people also need to stop being idiots. It's annoying and counterproductive to constructive diplomacy when a diplomatic crisis centers around some nutjob who wanders off into forbidden territory on some personal crusade.

    North Korea and Iran are autocratic, even totalitarian states. Traipsing around in them isn't going to improve the suffering of those within. And the governments of these nations are not nice. They will kill you. And don't expect Uncle Sam to run to your defense when they do.

    August 26, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
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