North Korea, United States, Air Koryo North Korea discussed on All Things Considered
It's all things considered from NPR news. I'm Mary Louise, Kelley Mati Cornish. Should you happen to be planning a trip to North Korea? You'll have a few logistical hurdles to clear, there's the fact that the State Department bands US passport holders from traveling there. There's the fact that Pyongyang and Washington don't have diplomatic relations. Hence, no embassy or consulates in the US. Hence where the heck do you play for visa, then there's the challenge of booking flights Air Koryo North Korea's state owned national airline does not accept credit cards or wire transfers from US Bank. And then once she finally get there, and you want to talk to North Koreans. Good luck with that. And you have a lot of advice about this. Right. Mary Louise been dealing with these obstacles last couple of weeks. Tell us more just back from reporting North Korea, as you know, because my stories have been airing on the show and all these people wrote in with questions about. Just the practicalities of getting there. So I thought I'd crack open my reporter's notebook a chair a little bit of it. That's a long list of obstacles we mentioned at the top. So how does one get started just saying like, you know, you wanna go what do you do next so obstacle number one? How do you get a V sits North Korea that road runs through New York and through the North Korea mission to the United Nations? They have an ambassador to the UN who I met for coffee in the lobby of this Manhattan hotel. He was with another senior North Korean diplomat. We talked about it and months and many emails and phone calls later. They said we might be able to put you in business with a visa then. So that's the North Korean side. Then you have to deal with the American State Department, which will not let you travel on your regular passport. You have to apply for and get a second passport as a journalist. You have to make the case that this would be in the national security interests of the United States. So we applied and last month. We got this letter back on State Department letterhead saying permission. So you have permission you have two passports where do you get a plane ticket? Yeah. This is the challenge because air corio as we mentioned the North Korean state owned airline does not take credit cards. They do not take wire transfers from a US Bank. So you can go on their website. They have an English language version. You can see that they've got seats. You can see the flight. And you think how the heck do? So we noodled around on that and ended up booking flights from Beijing. One of only three cities that you can fly to Pyongyang from and my producer Becky Sullivan found a travel agency in Beijing that specializes in travel to North Korea. So we reached out to them, and they were able to help hook us up with tickets once you land, we know North Korea is famously restrictive right with visitors especially journalists. How did you know how much freedom? Did you have in deciding where you went and what kind of interviews you would do zero. Zip zilch. We had no freedom, and this is standard practice for any journalist going to North Korea that you will be accompanied at all times by a government minder. We had at least one somebody's to at our side at all times. And they tell you where you're gonna go they tell you where you're going to stay. They actually stayed in the hotel not in our rooms putting out in the same hotel. So that they would be with us at all times. We did go see a lot of things that farm factories concerts. We were invited for the seventieth anniversary festivities celebrating the seventieth anniversary of North Korea. And we saw kinds of stuff, but bottom line is you see what they want you to see that. They've given you a journalist visa, right? And they have allowed you in. But then they basically say you can't talk to anyone. Yeah. That's that's basically how it works. I mean, they told us we're inviting you to cover the seventieth anniversary. And we did they took a stall kinds of parade concerts, all these commemorations. So they the North Korean government kept its end of the bargain that was the invitation and they made good on it. But yeah, we asked to see all kinds of other stuff at for example, the metro the subway in Pyongyang. I really wanted to go ride the metro just to see what the daily commute is like, and I'd been asking from before we left I asked from the moment we landed. I asked after we landed the very last morning we were right across the street from a metro stop. I could see it. And we were told there's no time I said for the I think there's time our minder said I have no time then he told us metro as close today than another reminder got involved said for your own safety, you might get lost. So I never got a straight answer. Why we couldn't go see the metro? I think it has to do bottom line with. There's no upside to the North Korean government. Of western reporters wandering around trying to talk to ordinary North Koreans. You know, what what good could possibly come of that? And that's their perspective. Finally, how did you weigh risk? I mean, fundamentally did you feel safe traveling there? I did. I mean, certainly compared to more Jones that I've reported from for for example, I never felt in physical danger in North Korea. You do way the risk the cost versus benefit of a reporting trip to an authoritarian state. And I think that cuts both ways you also weigh the risk to the people. You're speaking to because I have a US passport. I can I can leave. Two US passports at this point. But the people I'm talking to have to stay in love with the consequences of anything. They may say to me, and as mentioned anything they say to me is going to be overheard by North Korean government official, and we'll be recorded on my tape recorder and shared with all the world. So you always have that in your head. When you're asking people. What do you really think about something you thinking about what could this mean for the person I'm talking to it's been fascinating hearing these stories. Thank you so much for taking us behind the scenes. It's been my pleasure. Thanks. Animal from the Muppets Azizi top beard. These are some of the ways that Philadelphia. Flyers fans have described gritty there teams new fuzzy, orange mascot with googly eyes. It's great. The hockey team introduced greedy to hundreds of students yesterday at Philadelphia's please touch museum. This was shortly before gritty made his debut on the ice. He is the team's first mascot since nineteen seventy six and the flyers say they hope he will get younger fans excited about the team. The initial reaction from fans here in Philadelphia was one of horror that's culture writer Stephanie far of the Philadelphia Inquirer. People were pretty taken aback by him. Especially the is gritty doesn't speak, but he did respond to the criticism through his handler. Andrea Helfferich the pair went on good Morning, America. He's.