for those like me fascinated by the country, here's a good read. I'd love to visit. Would you? The Western Press Revolts in North Korea North Korea recently invited a bevy of foreign journalists to the country, but predictably restricted the press to closely monitored tours of model factories and tightly choreographed events.PHOTOGRAPH BY WONG MAYE-E / AP accusedWingfield-Hayes of being disrespectful and speaking “ill of the system and the leadership of the country.” Wingfield-Hayes and his crew, who had been following a delegation of Nobel laureates touring the country in advance of its first Workers’ Party Congress in decades, had made the critical error of reporting what they actually saw. During a visit to the Pyongyang Children’s Hospital, the BBC correspondent quoted a delegate observing that that the purported patients look like perfectly healthy children and that the adults present were not doctors. “Everything we see looks like a setup,” Wingfield-Hayes concluded on camera. Broadcast footage also included quarrels with the journalists’ North Korean minders, who objected on camera to a piece that the correspondent did in front of a statue of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s previous dictator.* “The level of control and nervousness we’ve experienced betrays the weakness and insecurity that lies beneath,” Wingfield-Hayes said. The minders also didn’t like Wingfield-Hayes’s observations about the current leader, Kim Jong-un. “What exactly he’s done to deserve the title marshal is hard to say,” he said in one report. “On state TV the young ruler seems to spend a lot of time sitting in a large chair watching artillery firing at mountainsides.” Perhaps the biggest slap was that he referred to young Kim as “corpulent.” The BBC’s observations about North Korea were hardly original—Wingfield-Hayes is not the first journalist to note that the leader is fat—but they were made on camera, inside the country, at a most sensitive time. North Korea was hosting a delegation of a hundred and thirty journalists for the Workers’ Party Congress, which was to elevate Kim Jong-un to Party chairman. Kim, who is in his early thirties and took over after his father’s death, in 2011, already had too many titles to fit onto a business card, so the event was more spectacle than substance. The Party wanted to show that Kim Jong-un, dressed for the occasion in a banker’s pin-striped suit and eyeglasses, was a modern professional leader and that North Korea wasn’t the same old hermit kingdom. The foreign journalists were supposed to be part of the show, the modern equivalent of a Greek chorus extolling the merits of the new leader. Predictably, the journalists did not accept the roles for which they were cast. “You ask too many questions,” the Washington Post’s Anna Fifield was told by one of her minders. “It’s a little hard to work with you.” The frustration was mutual. The journalists were treated, as Kim Jong-il would have recommended, to ample meals. Unlike ordinary North Koreans, they had free access to the Internet—but they also had almost no access to the events that they were supposed to be covering. As the Congress opened, on Friday, they were loaded on a bus and taken to a wire factory. Fifield complained on Twitter that she was reduced to getting most of her information from a guy in Utah (Michael Madden, who runs the Web site North Korea Leadership Watch). The journalists were housed at the Yanggakdo Hotel, located on an island in the Taedong River, making it impossible for them to stray from their minders. (The press calls the hotel the “Alcatraz” of North Korea.) Most of the places the journalists were brought were the same well-manicured locations that foreign delegations have been touring for decades. At a maternity hospital and the wire factory, Fifield recognized tour guides from a trip to the same locations in 2005. On the Pyongyang subway, journalists were permitted to ride between the same two stops that are always opened to tour groups. They were driven to a place that looked like a farm but was spotlessly clean and devoid of actual farmers. “In North Korea, master of the Potemkin everything, what looks like a duck and quacks like a duck can sometimes turn out to be a chicken. Or maybe even a frog,” the Los Angeles Times’ Julie Makinen wrote, last week. demanded. The North Korean organizers eventually caught on to the fact that the restless journalists could make trouble. On Monday, the last day of the Congress, they invited thirty of them to observe the proceedings. This was the same day that Wingfield-Hayes was expelled, but, oddly, another BBC crew was permitted inside the venue. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, and Reuters teams were all excluded. Makinen was told that she was not on the list because her reports “were not beautiful.” This was not the first time that North Korea has opened its doors wide to the foreign press corps. It did so in 2008, when the New York Philharmonic played in Pyongyang, and again in 2010, when Kim Jong-un was announced as Kim Jong-il’s successor. The tension between the government and the media didn’t spill out into the open as obviously then as it did this time, perhaps because journalists were not then as active on social media. The episode underscores the degree to which North Korea, perhaps more than any other country, is obsessed with the idea of saving face. For years, it has been parading rouged beauties and plum toddlers in front of foreign visitors, stocking supermarkets on the tour circuit with products that are not actually for sale in the country, and pulling the plug on the rest of the country in order to illuminate Pyongyang. During my first trip to Pyongyang, in 2005, I mindfully shut off my lights each morning in order to conserve electricity, but when I returned in the evening every light—including the closet light—was switched on. The Party was trying to impress a Chinese delegation led by the leader at the time, Hu Jintao. One of the most revealing stories of North Korea’s world view involves a North Korean delegation that visited Seoul back in 1972. The North Koreans, awed by the economic development they saw in Seoul, accused the South Koreans of transporting all of the country’s automobiles into the city in order to impress the visitors. A South Korean official famously retorted with words to the effect of “Yeah, and we put wheels on the buildings to move them, too.” That was more than forty years ago. But the mentality of North Korea—the distrust of the outside world and the tone-deafness to how its antics are perceived—hasn’t changed much since. *This sentence has been updated to note that the statue depicts Kim Jong-il, not Kim Il-sung, as was originally reported. Sign up for the daily newsletter: the best of The New Yorker every day.