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Irish woman 'happy' to be out of North Korea after expulsion for 'insulting dignity' of country

An Irish woman expelled from North Korea while working for the BBC after the state claimed her team "insulted its dignity" said she is "happy" to be out of the country after the episode.

North Korea expelled three BBC journalists it had detained days earlier for allegedly "insulting the dignity" of the authoritarian country.

Correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team had been scheduled to leave on Friday after accompanying a group of Nobel laureates on a North Korea trip.

Instead, the journalists were stopped at the airport, detained and questioned.

O Ryong Il, secretary-general of the North's National Peace Committee, said Mr Wingfield-Hayes' news coverage distorted facts and "spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country".

He said Mr Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, and was being expelled and would never be admitted into the country again.

The BBC said Mr Wingfield-Hayes' producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard were also detained and expelled.

They were taken to the airport and arrived in Beijing on Monday.

Ms Byrne (35) is senior China producer with BBC Asia.

She tweeted to say thanks for the messages and was "happy" to be back in Beijing.

Earlier Maria's father Pat Byrne told KCLR FM on Monday that the family are "shell-shocked" at hearing the reports of his daughter's detention.

The three arrived in Beijing on a flight on Monday evening. Mr Wingfield-Hayes said only that he was glad to be out and would have a statement later. His colleagues did not speak.

They were in Pyongyang ahead of the Workers Party Congress. They were accompanying a delegation of Nobel prize laureates on a research trip.

Another BBC journalist, Stephen Evans, the Seoul correspondent, is still in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

He said the North Korean leadership was displeased with their reports.

Mr Evans said the country's leadership singled Mr Wingfield-Hayesout over some of his reports for TV and online.

Speaking live to Radio 4's Today programme he said: "They were, as I understand, at the airport waiting to get on a flight.

"Just as they were about to board the flight, Rupert was held back.

"He was then taken to a hotel, a separate hotel to where we were and interrogated for eight hours."

The BBC said in a statement: "We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed.

"Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting."

More than 100 foreign journalists are in the capital for North Korea's first party congress in 36 years, though they have largely been prevented from actually covering the proceedings and the more than 3,400 delegates.

Officials have kept the foreign media busy with trips around Pyongyang to show them the places it most wants them to see - a maternity hospital with seemingly state-of-the-art equipment, a wire-making factory where managers say salaries and production are both going up, and the humble birthplace of national founder Kim Il Sung, which has been converted into a sort of museum-park with a large "funfair" right next door.

About 30 of the journalists finally got a peek at the congress on Monday, for about 10 minutes.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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