Fri, April 13, 2012
World > Asia-Pacific > DPRK's plan to launch satellite

Reporters get rare look into DPRK

2012-04-13 03:30:45 GMT2012-04-13 11:30:45(Beijing Time)  China Daily

Books about the late Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il are displayed at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang on Thursday.

The five-day window for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's rocket launch opened on Thursday, as more than 100 foreign reporters waited anxiously to see whether Pyongyang would send its satellite into space. 

Reporters attended a gathering of world scholars specializing in the "Juche Idea" created by DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, as part of a series of activities to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

We were then taken by bus to the Hana music information center that DPRK leader Kim Jong-il visited in December, two days before he died. A woman at the center burst into tears as she recalled his visit. 

Later that afternoon, we toured a duck raising and processing factory.

The previous several days have been wonderful for reporters hungry for information about this country. We've been given tours of the launch site and satellite control center, and briefings from space officials. 

The most frequently discussed question among reporters is also a predictable one: "Do you know the exact launch time?" 

We are staying at a 47-story hotel in a somewhat isolated part of Pyongyang. When we leave to go on a tour, we are told the departure time a few hours in advance but seldom know the destination. 

As one of the first groups of foreign reporters to be allowed into the country at the invitation of the DPRK's new leadership, we feel that our time in Pyongyang is precious. This is a rare opportunity to get a first-hand look at the lives of people in the DPRK, and we have been taking pictures and video of everything, including female transportation officers and university students. 

We have also took pictures of skyscrapers and other political landmarks in the city. Pyongyang is a little old-fashioned, and resembles Chinese cities from the 1970s. 

I expected to see an economically depressed city based on common stereotypes of the country. Yet signs of economic progress can be found in the modern designs and scale of some of the buildings. The Yanggakdo International Hotel where we are staying was built in the 1980s.

These days, Pyongyang is in a festive mood. And there is a lot going on in the country. The ruling party held a rare special meeting on Wednesday to appoint Kim Jong-un as the party head to succeed his late father. On Friday, the legislature will convene, and Kim Jong-un is expected be appointed chairman of the all-powerful national defense commission or given a new title. 

On Sunday's centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in Pyongyang. 

A US reporter said the ceremony might be the biggest event in the DPRK's history, and one of the reasons why so many foreign reporters and guests were invited to the country.

The other main reason is, of course, to witness the rocket launch. And now that the five-day window to send the satellite into space has begun, we are eager to see where we're taken next. 

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