Outsiders covering North Korea Congress under constant watch

Pyongyang is giving limited access to hundreds of reporters.

By Elizabeth Shim
Outsiders covering North Korea Congress under constant watch
North Korea is to hold its rare Seventh Party Congress Friday, and foreign reporters have been allowed access to the country that is mostly limited to Pyongyang, the capital. File Photo by Choson Sinbo

SEOUL, May 5 (UPI) -- North Korea has invited hundreds of international observers, including journalists, to cover its Seventh Party Congress, an event to be held Friday to solidify Kim Jong Un's rule and his plans for the country.

There appeared to be little change from past protocol regarding coverage. Reporters were under constant watch and rarely permitted to roam freely outside Pyongyang, CNN reported from North Korea.


There were also signs the Seventh Party Congress is taking a toll on ordinary North Koreans and elites alike.

A citywide alarm in Pyongyang has been going off an hour earlier, at 5 a.m., for at least two months, part of a mass mobilization movement called the "70-day battle."

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Sources who spoke anonymously to South Korea and Japan press have said they are weary of the volunteer labor they are obligated to perform on behalf of the state.

But in Pyongyang on Wednesday, a North Korean woman who works as a tour guide told CNN that she is happy with the demands.

"We the Korean people think our leader Kim Jong Un is just like our father, just like our mother. And so we trust him and we do our best for building a thriving country," Hyon said.

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Kim has promised to raise living standards in the country with new construction, and has built a water park, an upscale nursery and a row of high-rise buildings dedicated to North Korean scientists.

The state also allowed the BBC to visit Kim Il Sung University, an elite college for North Korea's brightest students.

The BBC accompanied Nobel laureates to the university, which was being showcased to foreign media.

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Confusion ensued, however, when one Nobel laureate, Richard Roberts, inquired about Internet access to the outside world. The students were unable to connect to the Internet, causing embarrassment for the instructors, Voice of America reported.

The faculty then pretended that unlimited Internet access was available, the BBC reported.

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