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North Korea expels BBC reporter during congress

The North Korean authorities have detained and interrogated a BBC reporter, accusing him of 'speaking ill' of the state. The journalist wrote an apology and would not be admitted into the country again, officials said.

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BBC journalist expelled from North Korea

Pyongyang ordered the BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes to be expelled for "insulting the dignity" of North Korea, officials said on Monday.

The journalist was covering a group of

Nobel Prize laureates who were visiting

the isolated country ahead of a ruling party congress. He allegedly questioned authenticity of a seemingly high-tech hospital which the officials had shown to foreign reporters, his colleagues said.

"When he reached the airport on Friday, he was separated from the rest of his team, prevented from boarding that flight, taken to a hotel and interrogated by the security bureau here in Pyongyang," another BBC reporter, John Sudworth, said in a report.

According to the BBC, Wingfield-Hayes was questioned for eight hours and made to sign a statement before rejoining his team in a hotel.

High-ranking North Korean official O Ryong Il said that the detained journalist distorted facts and "spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country." The correspondent wrote an apology, but would still be prevented from entering the country in the future, he added.

State-run sightseeing

North Korea granted visas to nearly 130 media representatives from 12 countries for

the first Workers' Party congress

in the last 36 years.

However, the foreign journalists have had no access to the actual proceedings, and are forced to rely on state media coverage.

The North Korean officials have organized media tours around Pyongyang displaying carefully selected locations, including a wire-making factory, the birthplace of the state's founder Kim Il Sung, a farm, and a complex of high-rise buildings.

The journalists were also taken for a ride on a new train, purportedly developed in North Korea.

So far, the only actual congress-related event has been a brief photo opportunity near the Pyongyang venue on Friday.

The congress is expected to last for a few more days.

dj/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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