In the News – Journalists Invited to Pyongyang Are Scooped by Rocket Launching and Failure

In the News – Journalists Invited to Pyongyang Are Scooped by Rocket Launching and Failure

Journalists worked before a blank screen on Friday in Pyongyang, North Korea, as they waited for news of the rocket launching.

More than 50 foreign journalists accepted coveted invitations toNorth Korea this week for the gala celebrations exalting the centenary of the country’s deceased founder Kim Il-sung, the ascension of his grandson Kim Jong-un to the top leadership posts and, perhaps most alluring, the launching of a multistage rocket thatNorth Korea had said would triumphantly place a satellite into orbit.

It was a rare opportunity not only for a peek inside the reclusive country, but also to witness one of its rocket launchings live for the first time. But the journalists did not see the launching Friday morning, or its spectacular failure minutes later.

They were cloistered in a hermetic hotel’s press room, which North Korean government chaperones would not let them leave for more than three hours. The minders provided no information about either the launching or its failure, participants in the tour said. Instead, the information went the other way, after the journalists learned about the event via messages and telephone and Internet connections from colleagues in South Korea and their editors at home.

“Now in bizarre situation our NKorea minders asking ME to tell THEM if rocket has launched,” Damian Grammaticas, a BBC News correspondent, wrote in a Twitter message. “Went up 4 hours ago but they have no information.” Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, wrote in a Twitter message that the “gov’t minders seemed to have no idea about the rocket launch … we informed them.”

The rocket’s failure was not the only public-relations calamity to confront the North Korean hosts of the foreign press tour. On Thursday, a three-bus caravan that was supposed to take the journalists to the Hana Music Information Center — a showcase marbled structure where Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, had made one of his last public appearances before he died in December — took a wrong turn into a dirty Pyongyang slum.

Tim Sullivan, an Associated Press correspondent on the tour, reported that impoverished North Koreans stared at the reporters, who obviously were not supposed to see this side of North Korea. He quoted an annoyed chaperone as mumbling, “Perhaps this is an incorrect road?”

Original article can be found here.


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