S.Korean Reporters Get to Cover Nuke Site Shutdown After All

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    May 23, 2018 11:22

    North Korea at the 11th hours permitted South Korean reporters to cover the dismantling of its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri from Wednesday to Friday.

    The North in a fit of pique last week booted them off the roster of invited foreign reporters and refused to give them their visas.

    On May 12, Pyongyang invited hand-picked reporters from five countries -- South Korea, the U.S., the U.K., China, and Russia -- to cover the event, but changed its mind over the South Koreans amid fresh cross-border bickering.

    The South Korean reporters, who had already been picked from media outlets not overly critical of the regime, were reduced to cooling their heels in Beijing.

    Other pre-selected reporters who were given their visas include staff from CNN and CBS from the U.S., Sky News and APTN of the U.K., CCTV and Xinhua from China, and RT and RIA Novosti of Russia.

    They took off on an Air Koryo flight from Beijing Capital International Airport on Tuesday morning bound for Wonsan in North Korea, the nearest airport to Punngye-ri.

    On arrival, the visiting reporters unpacked at their hotel and on Wednesday they are taken to Punggye-ri to watch the dismantling of the site. Their every move is watched by North Korean minders, and have to wait until they get back to Wonsan to broadcast their footage. They will reach the site after a grueling 12 hour trip by train, bus and on foot.

    CNN reporter Will Ripley (center) talks to the media at Beijing Capital International Airport in China on Tuesday before flying to North Korea. /Reuters-Yonhap

    The eight South Korean reporters hung on in Beijing until late Tuesday night in case the North changed its mind but then returned to Seoul.

    After the all-clear early Wednesday morning, they prepared to catch a lunchtime flight to Wonsan chartered by the South Korean government.

    The initial snub seemed to be just a shot before the bow because the North was peeved that South Korea let a prominent defector hold a widely publicized book launch in the National Assembly. It relented just as South Korean President Moon Jae-in tried to smooth ruffled U.S. feathers over the North's recent more assertive rhetoric.

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