The Most Secretive Place on Earth: Inside North Korea with Will Ripley

This is the oldest theater in Pyongyang built after the Korean war, a time of rapid growth for North Korea.

This is the oldest theater in Pyongyang built after the Korean war, a time of rapid growth for North Korea.

“I asked our government minders if they’d be willing to show us what life is really like for regular people in North Korea.”

Pyongyang (CNN) — Will Ripley: It is exceedingly rare for Western journalists to be allowed inside the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) — commonly known as North Korea. It is even less common for an American reporter to visit this reclusive nation, home to nearly 25 million people who are essentially isolated from the rest of the world.

“They said they’d ask their superiors and get back to us.”

Yet here I am, an American member of a CNN crew, reporting from Pyongyang about the latest high profile sporting event to sweep this city since a bizarre basketball tournament earlier this year.

Our hotel, the Yanggakdo, is on its own little island inside Pyongyang but still apart from it. Water separates us from everyone else.

Our hotel, the Yanggakdo, is on its own little island inside Pyongyang but still apart from it. Water separates us from everyone else.

Even though decades of isolation and crippling sanctions have left North Korea struggling economically and lagging far behind much of the developed world in terms of technology and infrastructure — the nation is nearly unrivaled in its ability to mobilize tens of thousands of citizens to put on a spectacular show.

You probably remember when American NBA star Dennis Rodman organized a basketball tournament in Pyongyang.

rodman-kim

Rodman was widely criticized in the United States for befriending the DPRK’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, whose authoritarian regime has been accused by a United Nations panel of widespread human rights abuses, charges that North Korea strongly denies.

Haircuts are chosen by number, here 1--15. We're told the most popular is 7.

Haircuts are chosen by number, here 1–15. We’re told the most popular is 7.

‘Sports diplomacy’

Outside press were not invited to cover Rodman’s trip. This time, CNN is among a handful of news organizations granted rare access to Pyongyang to cover the International Pro Wrestling Festival.

[Also see: Japan Lawmaker Kanji ‘Antonio’ Inoki Takes Sport Diplomacy to North Korea]

Don’t miss this Pundit Planet Exclusive: Mashup: Dennis Rodman and Marylin Monroe sing Happy Birthday to Kim Jong-Un]

Retired Japanese wrestling star turned politician Kanji “Antonio” Inoki is organizing the event. In his professional heyday, Inoki fought in a memorable and bizarre 1976 match in Tokyo with boxing great Muhammad Ali. Today, as an aging member of the Japanese parliament, he is once again in the headlines for his latest attempt at what he calls “sports diplomacy” between Japan and North Korea.

Inoki is holding the event in the home country of Rikidozan, his late wrestling mentor. He says it will bring together professional fighters from the United States, China, and several other countries. The wrestlers are also scheduled to tour Pyongyang and interact with North Korean fans.

Our journey so far

After landing in Pyongyang, we headed to our hotel,which sits on its own island.

Complete with a microbrewery, the hotel tries to give journalists on this trip a Western experience, serving simple Western-style omelettes and potatoes for breakfast. Dinner was a Korean-style meal.

Taking a look around the city, we saw some people holding cell phones, which looked like small Blackberrys. People weren’t blindly walking about with their eyes locked on the screen; a common sight in Western cities.

These were not touch-screen phones, instead gadgets where people can access the internal net and visit certain North Korean sites like government sites and the country’s largest newspaper…(read more)

CNN.com


2 Comments on “The Most Secretive Place on Earth: Inside North Korea with Will Ripley”

  1. […] The Most Secretive Place on Earth: Inside North Korea with Will Ripley (punditfromanotherplanet.com) […]

  2. Cyril says:

    Thanks for finally writing about >The Most Secretive Place on Earth: Inside North
    Korea with Will Ripley | pundit from another planet <Liked it!


Leave a Reply to Report: Tokyo Suspects North Korea of Abducting 883 Japanese Nationals | pundit from another planet Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.