Reporting from the Inside: What it's like to be an American journalist in N. Korea

BTN11: What it's like to be an American journalist in N. Korea

MINNEAPOLIS - CNN’S Will Ripley knows the stakes. He has been on 13 reporting trips to North Korea over the last three years. He has been to the state sanctioned celebrations, he was there for the nuclear test in January, he broke the Otto Warmbier story.

Ripley knows the stakes.

“I’m always careful,” Ripley said in Facetime interview with KARE 11 from South Korea on Thursday night. “My main objective when I go into North Korea is I want to go home and I keep that in mind. I want me and my team to go home,” Ripley said.

That may sound dramatic, but remember the Otto Warmbier story as an example of how wrong things can go. Otto was there on a three-day trip with friends in 2016. They went out on the town and back at the hotel he messed around with a propaganda poster. For that, the North Korean government sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Two months later, he mysteriously has a brain injury and falls into an 18-month long coma. In June, he was finally freed to come home and died six days later. He was jailed for messing with a poster and winds up dead.

Ripley knows the stakes.

“You have to always think before you speak and you have to be mindful that everything you say inside North Korea is being monitored on the air but off air too. Imagine living where you always believe there is a microphone recording you even if there isn't,” Ripley said.

So bearing that in mind, he also has a job to do. A delicate balance of a job to do.

“It is one of the most difficult places for any journalist to work because you are obviously under constant government supervision but at the same time, you can't do stories that are credible to a western audience that are pro regime.  You can't celebrate Kim Jong Un like the North Koreans would like you to do so you have to find a way to be factual and accurate and find a way to report critically about the country but at the same time continue to get access and go back.”

© 2017 KARE-TV


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