LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two American journalists freed by North Korea after months of detention returned home to a tearful family reunion on Wednesday accompanied by former President Bill Clinton, who secured their release in a meeting with the reclusive states leader Kim Jong-il. Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, reporters for an American cable television venture co-founded by Clintons former vice-president, Al Gore, arrived with Clinton at Burbank airport near Los Angeles aboard a private jet from North Korea. The two Current TV journalists were arrested on March 17 for illegally crossing into the North from China and had been reporting on the trafficking of women. They were both sentenced to 12 years hard labour in June. Ling raised her arms in the air as the two women descended from the plane for a tearful reunion with their families inside the airport hangar. Ling said she and Lee both feared they could be taken at any moment to a hard labour camp when on Tuesday they were led instead to a location where Clinton was waiting for them. We knew the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end, she told reporters. Ling thanked all those, known and unknown, who had campaigned for their release. We could feel your love all the way in North Korea. It is what kept us going in the darkest hours. Clinton was received with a round of applause and an embrace from Gore. President (Barack) Obama and countless members of his administration have been deeply involved, Gore said. A White House spokesman said the Obama Admin is enormously pleased at the safe return of two journalists. US officials said North Korea was not promised any rewards for their release and there was no link to nuclear non-proliferation talks. Clintons wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told reporters in Nairobi she was happy and relieved. She added that there was no connection between the effort to free the two journalists and the thorny nuclear issue. We have always considered that a totally separate issue from our efforts to re-engage the North Koreans and have them return to the six-party talks and work for a commitment for the full, verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, she said. The future of our relationships with the North Koreans is really up to them. They have a choice, she said. A US official said the former president talked to North Koreas leadership about the positive things that could flow from freeing the two women, who had been held since March. The official said North Korea would face deeper isolation if it continued provocative behavior that has included nuclear and missile tests. Washington would maintain efforts to enforce UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over its May 25 nuclear test, the official added.