For most journalists, traveling into North Korea is like the holy grail of assignments.
Not because it's a particularly glamorous destination with beautiful beaches, delicious food or artistic masterpieces, but because it is so mysterious -- literally and figuratively closed off to the real world. It is so isolated, it's called the "hermit kingdom."
As with many countries, you have to get a visa to enter as a journalist, but North Korea seldom grants them. I had one nine years ago, but at the last minute, I was redirected by breaking news and couldn't use it. I was really torn, because on the one hand I had to cover the Rambouillet talks that preceded the 1999 Kosovo War, but on the other hand I so wanted that rare glimpse of the Secret State.
So when CNN asked me to cover the historic trip of the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang at the end of February, I jumped at the chance. After months of negotiations, the North Korean government agreed to the orchestra's demands for playing Pyongyang, which happily for us included bringing in a large contingent of journalists.
I was under no illusion that we journalists would have free run of the place -- far from it. However, any access is better than none, and any time is better than never, even in the dead of freezing North Korean winter. Behind-the-Scenes photos from inside North Korea Read full article »