North Korea Refuses to Allow Scheduled Reporters to Cover Nuclear Site Disassembly

David Lee, May 22, 2018, 7:52 a.m.

North Korea declined to accept the list of South Korean journalists chosen to cover the dismantling of its nuclear test site Tuesday, making it technically hard for the South Korean media to join the event scheduled for this week.

"We tried to convey the list through the Panmunjom communication channel at 9 a.m. today, but the North declined to accept it," a unification ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

As the North declined to accept the list, South Korean media is highly likely to be excluded from covering the event that the North is planning to hold this week.

"It appears to be technically difficult (for the South Korean reporters) to make a trip to the North today," a government official said. "It is regrettable."

   A unification ministry official later told reporters that the Panmumjom channel was shut off for the day at 4 p.m. without any new developments.

North Korea announced in mid-May that it will publicly shut down the test site located in the country's northern region in a ceremony to which media from South Korea, China, Russia, the United States and Britain will be invited to cover.

The North invited four South Korean reporters each from a newswire or a broadcasting company for the event to be held from Wednesday to Friday, depending on weather conditions.

The site, located in the mountainous region of the North, is where the North carried out all six of its nuclear denotation tests. Its dismantling is deemed to be a "meaningful" step toward the complete denuclearization the North promised in the April 27 inter-Korean summit.

Despite uncertainty over their trip to the North, eight South Korean journalists arrived in Beijing on Monday.

It is likely that foreign journalists excluding the South Koreans will fly to Wonsan on Tuesday on a charter plane from which they are expected to travel by train to an area near the test site. They are set to return home either on Saturday or Sunday.

With the South Korean journalists stranded, a North Korean reporter based in Beijing expressed his regrets.

"I am a journalist myself, and it'd be great if South Koreans were able to cover the event," said Won Jong-hyok, Beijing correspondent for the Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North Korean Workers' Party.

Qualifying his remarks as personal views, Won said the door is still open for the South Koreans to make their way to North Korea.

"Since we're going to have to watch the weather conditions between Wednesday and Friday, there's a still a chance even if they don't get on the plane today," Won said. "Our marshal (Kim Jong-un) and President Moon Jae-in have talked and come up with a good agreement. For us, this is a major event. If they wait until tomorrow with hope, they may receive some good news."


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