North Korea Invites Burmese Journalists to Visit

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 17 July 2014

RANGOON — North Korean officials have extended an informal invitation for Burmese journalists to travel to their country and learn about the situation there, journalists say.

Officials from the North Korean Embassy in Rangoon extended the invitation on Wednesday while visiting Burma’s Interim Press Council.

“They would like the council members to travel to their country if we are interested in meeting newspaper organizations there,” council member Myint Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

“Their visit was just introductory, to learn more about us. They didn’t make an official invitation,” he added.

Another council member, Myo Thant Tin, said the North Korean officials wanted the Burmese media to learn more about the current situation in North Korea.

“They want the Burmese media to publish what the Burmese audience should know, because most of the information about their country is based on second-hand sources. They want us to contact them directly—that’s why they came to see us,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The offer comes amid increasing government pressure on journalists in Burma. Last week, journalists at a Rangoon-based journal were sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor after publishing a story about a defense factory, while dozens of other journalists in the city are facing charges for holding a protest.

But the situation for journalists under North Korea’s repressive regime is even worse, as Kim Jong-un’s government tightly controls all information going into and out of the country. North Korea ranked second to last on the World Press Freedom Index 2014, which compared the press freedom situation in 179 countries and was compiled by France-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Burma ranked 145.

The visit to the Press Council on Wednesday lasted for nearly one hour. North Korean Ambassador to Burma Kim Sok Chol and the embassy’s third secretary reportedly asked about the council’s duties and discussed North Korea’s relations with South Korea.

It was the first time the embassy had met with Burmese journalists since the two countries officially resumed diplomatic ties in 2007. Burma severed relations with North Korea after a 1983 bombing in Rangoon by North Korean secret agents that left 21 people dead, including four South Korean cabinet ministers.

The North Korean Embassy in Rangoon could not be reached for comment.