Fried turtle and constant monitoring

0
18


North Korea may be offering unprecedented access but it is still determined to maintain full control of the journalists here.

What we know is that at some point over the next few days, we will be taken to Punggye-Ri – the only active nuclear weapons test site in the world, and where the North Koreans have detonated six warheads to date.

We know that to get there, we will take a 12-hour train, a four-hour bus and then hike for two hours through the mountains to the site.

There are about 20 journalists from different countries here – Sky News is the only media from the UK – and we will be the first foreigners to see the site.

Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire looks at Kalma Airport in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews wonsan north korea 4317176
Image:
Sky News Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire at Kalma Airport in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield

But we do not know when that will happen – it could be anytime over the next three days.

Nor do we know exactly what we will see. What is sure is that it will be what the North Korean regime want to show. A government minder is by our side every minute.

Two North Korean women at an airport kiosk in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews wonsan north korea 4317177
Image:
Two North Korean women at an airport kiosk in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield

At Wonsan airport, our satellite phone was confiscated. So was our radiation dosimeter – a device used to measure how much nuclear radiation we absorb at the test site (and whether it stays at a safe level).

Officials assured us that the test site is completely safe and so we would not need it, despite our repeated protests.

Wonsan, where we are staying for now, itself epitomises some of the contrasts of the regime, and where it finds itself right now.

The group of journalists were the only arrivals at Kalma Airport in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews wonsan north korea 4317181
Image:
The group of journalists were the only arrivals at Kalma Airport in Wonsan. Pic: Michael Greenfield

This is a port city that not long ago was a base for artillery drills and missile launches. Now the North Korean government is rebranding it as a tourist hub.

The airport has just been finished, all polished marble. After arrivals (where every bit of luggage you’re carrying is examined by comparatively good-natured officials), there are some kiosks, newsstands and drinks vendors, staffed by silent women wearing purple uniforms and fixed smiles.

Entering Wonsan city in southeast North Korea Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews wonsan north korea 4317178
Image:
Entering Wonsan city in southeast North Korea. Pic: Michael Greenfield
Sky's Asia Correspondent Tom Cheshire in North Korea Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews thomas cheshire north 4317070
Image:
Sky’s Asia Correspondent Tom Cheshire in North Korea

Usually, the reflex when you step out of an airport departure hall onto the road is to brace yourself for the noise and chaos; here, you cannot hear a sound

The road to the hotel offered a view of Wonsan. On the right, a brief glimpse at what looked like a cramped workers’ barracks before we moved speedily on.

An official gave a speech welcoming us to North Korea and warning us to observe its laws. One journalist was reprimanded for not paying sufficient attention.

Our hotel is intended as a luxury resort and the smell of fresh paint was overpowering when we came in. And when we arrived we were given a bizarre banquet in a large hall.

Music – a violin cover of Frank Sinatra’s My Way – was piped in. On the menu: everything from fondue to steak, as well as fried turtle and shark fin soup, and row after row of silver cutlery.

In a country that has suffered so much from famine and poverty, and which continues to suffer, it was a dislocating experience.

The view of Wonsan from the new airport. Pic: Tom Cheshire Fried turtle and constant monitoring Fried turtle and constant monitoring skynews north korea tom cheshire 4317122
Image:
The view of Wonsan from the new airport. Pic: Tom Cheshire

But this is the economic vision that Kim Jong Un says he wants to focus on, now that he has developed nuclear weapons – the so-called ‘Byungjin Line’ he first declared back in 2013.

It is also a vision of opening up and prosperity that Donald Trump has promised to help Kim with, if their meeting on 12 June goes well.

That optimism is tempered by the deep suspicion the regime has for the idea of giving up its weapons along with its militaristic tendencies.

On the ground here in North Korea, it feels like a place struggling to choose which vision of its future it really wants.



Source link

Leave a Reply

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