Even North Koreans Watch ‘The Situation Room’

By Alex Weprin Comment

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer just returned from a trip to North Korea, where he accompanied former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on a private diplomatic mission.

Very few TV news journalists get to go to the secretive and closed-off communist state, though Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren has made the trip a number of times over the past few years, as have a few others.

Blitzer described what it was like meeting the North Korean elite, who all seem to be pretty up-to-speed on American politics… and American cable news:

KIM KYE GWAN, NORTH KOREA CHIEF NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR (via translator): It’s my first time to see you after (INAUDIBLE) CNN.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thank you for letting me come here with Governor Richardson to North Korea.

GWAN: I am personally very happy to be able to meet with you, Mr. Wolf, who I presume to have the same power as the American president.


BLITZER: Thank you very much for that compliment. I don’t think it’s true.

But it was very nice to hear from you. We hope that CNN will have an opportunity to come visit North Korea on many occasions.

GWAN: I think you’re the only one who has THE SITUATION ROOM, except President Obama.


BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And thank you very much. In the hotel we’re staying, we can watch CNN International, which is very nice to be able to see what’s happening here in Pyongyang watching CNN.

Yes, if you are staying at a North Korean hotel, you can watch CNN International. It wasn’t all rosy for Blitzer however. When they first arrived, there was fear that the North may retaliate against the South for war games that were going on.

Well, I think the tensest moment for me, personally, was when I started watching North Korean television and listening to their radio. As someone who has covered the communist world back in the ’70s and ’80s during the height of the Cold War, and I began hearing some martial music on North Korean television. You know, very patriotic, very military. And I said to myself, are they preparing the North Korean people for some sort of war, once you hear that kind of music.

Normally, they have very patriotic music going on North Korean television, but it’s lovely and they’ve got women dancing and stuff like that. But this suggested to me that maybe there was a change and at that point I said, well, maybe the North Koreans are serious and they’re going to start something. Once I heard that music, I began to wonder, am I going to get out of North Korea?

On the other hand as a journalist, I said, well, it’s probably a good location to be if there’s going to be a war, at least I could cover it from one side.

Check out more from Blitzer’s trip in a “Reporter’s Notebook” he filed, here.