101 Ways To Thwart A Reporter In Pyongyang

Behind the scenes of NPR's recent reporting trip to North Korea, where a government-assigned minder stymied the team at nearly every turn.
All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly (right) records a standup with producer Becky Sullivan at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang ahead of a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's founding. Source: David Guttenfelder

If, on a recent Wednesday morning, you had happened to find yourself in the cavernous lobby of Pyongyang's Yanggakdo Hotel, you might have witnessed the following exchange, between a pleasant-looking North Korean man and an exasperated-looking American news team.

"You must be tired," says Mr. Kim. "You will want to rest at the hotel this morning."

Nope, we're good. Ready when you are.

"Well, I am tired."

Mr. Kim is the guide assigned to us by North Korea's Foreign Ministry. We are charged $75 per day for his services, and they are not optional. (I'm using his last name only here, because he did not want to be quoted in any official capacity or appear to be speaking for the North Korean government.) He's been glued to my side from the moment we cleared passport control at Pyongyang airport six days earlier, acting as an interpreter, a fixer,

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