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N. Korean Leader Gets Promoted; 3 BBC Journalists Get Expelled | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the first congress of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party in 36 years, in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang May 8, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters

Kim Jong-un has been named on Monday chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea at a rare party congress held in Pyongyang.

This move highlights how the authoritarian country’s first congress in 36 years, which opened on Friday, is aimed at supporting the young leader and ushering in a new era of leadership. State media reported that the congress was scheduled to promote Kim to the “top post” of the party.

On Monday, about 30 reporters were allowed to enter the April 25 House of Culture, but were allowed to stay for only about 10 minutes during which the new title was announced. Before that, the only window any of them had on the proceedings was through the lens of state media.

It was the first time since the congress began Friday that any of the more than 100 foreign journalists invited were allowed to view any of the proceedings. Earlier Monday, three BBC journalists were expelled for allegedly “insulting the dignity” of North Korea.

The country expelled BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, who had not been among journalists covering the congress. He had covered an earlier trip of Nobel laureates and had been scheduled to leave Friday. Instead, he was stopped at the airport, detained and questioned.

O Ryong Il, secretary-general of the North’s National Peace Committee, said the journalist’s news coverage distorted facts and “spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country.” He said Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, was expelled Monday and would never be admitted into the country again.

The BBC said Wingfield-Hayes was detained Friday along with producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard, and that all were taken to the Pyongyang airport.

“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,” the BBC said in a statement.

“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.” The BBC was among the media organizations allowed into the congress Monday.

The congress was expected to go on for a couple more days, though no date has been announced, and surprises can never be ruled out.

Mass rallies will likely be held to mark its conclusion in a celebratory fashion.