CBC correspondent Saša Petricic was in Pyongyang last week, along with a slew of other international journalists, to cover the country’s biggest yearly celebration — the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il-sung. He was invited to cover the event, a rare glimpse inside the closed country of North Korea.
He spoke about his experience via a live chat on the CBC News Facebook page on Tuesday night.
‘Someone is constantly watching you.’
– Saša Petricic
Petricic answered a range of questions from the audience including what kind of reporting he was able to do, what kind of interactions he had with ordinary North Koreans and how serious is the threat of a nuclear attack.
Here are a few of Petricic’s answers to your questions:
What was it like reporting in the country?
He said that when he was invited, he wasn’t told what hotel he’d be staying in or given any kind of itinerary detailing what he would be doing. He said he and all the other journalists who were invited simply had to arrive at the airport, where they were joined by a government minder, who was with them at all times.
“They’re basically your shadow for the next however many days you’re staying there,” Petricic said.
It turned out to be useful to have the minder with him, he said, because he was often stopped by police or military personnel asking him what he was doing — and the minder could explain.
“But the downside is that someone is constantly watching you.”
This extended to interviews with regular North Koreans. The minder wouldn’t prevent him from speaking to anyone, but their presence could have been intimidating to the person being interviewed.
Petricic said he was not censored in any way, but said there was obviously a risk that if he said anything that made the government unhappy, he might not be allowed back in the country.
But he said the government wants foreign media in the country to report back to their audiences, serving a kind of de facto diplomatic role since many traditional diplomatic relations are blocked.
What is technology like there?
The country has had a reputation for spotty electricity. Petricic said he didn’t experience any blackouts, but said there was no way of knowing whether rural areas of the country have the same kind of electricity access as the capital.
But some things were starkly different from the rest of the world.
He said it was strange to see people who were not glued to their phones — and mobile phones were a rare sight.
“I maybe saw a dozen people altogether doing something with their…