Voice of America journalist Sungwon Baik, who just completed a rare reporting assignment to North Korea, says officials there appeared to be conveying a message that they want to improve strained relations with the United States.
Baik was granted access to North Korea earlier this month, after receiving an unprecedented written invitation by North Korean officials, to cover the 17th International Taekwon-Do World Championships in Pyongyang from September 6th through the 12th.
North Korean officials at the event said on a number of occasions that they were familiar with VOA broadcasts and that the news programs are well recognized. “The first time I thought they were just trying to be polite to me,” Baik said, “but then it was like 6 or 7 times a day they would say that VOA is very important and you can come back.”
In addition to his reporting on the taekwon-do championships, Baik was allowed to walk around Pyongyang and ride the subway, but always accompanied by an official. He describes the city (click here) as vibrant and busy with activity.
Baik, whose reports aired live on the VOA Korean Service during the taekwon-do competition, interviewed a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, Chang Ung, who expressed hope the event would be a turning point in relations with the United States and could pave the way for future cultural and sports exchanges.