Putin to visit North Korea for first time in 24 years

North Korea only allows the outside world to see what it wants them to see.

As a former Seoul correspondent who covered North Korea, I watched how diplomatic visits were carefully choreographed and packaged for Korean Central Television.

This one will probably be no different, complete with a moving soundtrack or poetic prose by state media. And the cameras will be looking for the best angles of Kim Jong Un and President Putin together.

Until those news reports, we will know very little about what’s happening on the ground.

We are relying on flight trackers and satellite imagery to see preparations or planes landing.

In order to maintain control, the North Korean regime keeps its 25 million people in the dark through a system of isolation and brutal repression. Often the only way reporters get to hear about what’s happening is through a system of smuggled mobile phones near the Chinese border – but even that form of communication has dwindled in recent years.

The vast majority of Pyongyang’s foreign population of aid workers and diplomats left after North Korea imposed strict Covid-19 restrictions. There are few reliable eyes left who can give us a true picture inside the regime.


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