Reporters in North Korea subjected to lockdown, Internet blackout

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  May 25, 2018 at 9:43 AM
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May 25 (UPI) -- Foreign reporters in North Korea to witness the demolition of the country's nuclear site were banned from leaving their hotel for several hours, following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to cancel his summit with Kim Jong Un.

According to South Korean news service News 1, whose team was allowed to travel to Punggye-ri to cover the dismantlement, the journalists were told "not to go outside" on Friday when they returned to their accommodations in Wonsan.

The demolition took place at 11 a.m. Thursday local time, and the journalists returned to Wonsan on Friday morning.

The group had lunch at 12:30 p.m. and all reporters ate a North Korean kimchi that was "specially" prepared "because the South Korean comrades are here," a North Korean official said.

Nothing appeared out of place until about 2 p.m. when the hotel gates were closed for undisclosed reasons, and reporters were told to wait in their rooms.

Michael Greenfield of Sky News said no explanations were given for the temporary shutdown.

"We were finally allowed to leave the hotel again after a 3 hour lockdown by our government minders. Of course when we asked why, we got the usual 'I don't know'," Greenfield tweeted on Friday.

Will Ripley of CNN said there were additional restrictions.

"Something interesting is happening at our hotel in Wonsan. We've been told to stay inside and not look out the windows. Most of us are assembled in the press center. Our minders don't seem to know what's going on," he tweeted. "It may be no big deal, but you never know in North Korea."

News 1 reported the group could not access the Internet starting at 6:30 p.m., and phone lines were disconnected at 7 p.m.

The demolition at Punggye-ri drew mixed reactions from the group, which included reporters from Britain, China, the United States and South Korea.

Tom Cheshire of Sky News suggested the explosion did not fully confirm complete destruction of the site. He said he asked for further details but was rebuffed.

"Officials held a closing ceremony after, where they talked about transparency. Afterwards I doorstopped the DPRK colonel, asking how we could really tell the tunnels had been destroyed. He said we had seen with our own eyes the sort of explosion produced," Cheshire tweeted.

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