North Koreans were well aware of South Korean issues, according to reporters who visited the North's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri to witness its demolition.
The North Koreans they met showed keen interest in South Korea's regional elections scheduled for next month and knew about stories like power blogger Druking, who is accused of large-scale opinion-rigging in favor of now-President Moon Jae-in during his election campaign, and the "Me Too" movement.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, one reporter who visited the North said, "North Korean guides were well informed, perhaps because of their job, which is to handle information about the South." Many of the guides worked for the North's Foreign Ministry and affiliated agencies.
Another reporter said the guides knew about "the Druking scandal and Me Too movement. They were even reluctant to shake hands with a female journalist due to concerns they might be misunderstood."
A reporter for the state-run [North] Korean Central TV claimed that there was no radioactive contamination near one of the tunnels at the test site and asked South Korean journalists to drink water from a nearby stream. One South Korean reporter said, "I suggested he drink the water first, but he refused."
The reporters said the only people they spotted along the 21 km trip from the nearest train station to the Punggye-ri test site were soldiers manning the seven military checkpoints en route.
Another said, "We saw buildings appearing after passing around 7 km from the nuclear test site, and there were cornfields even though we could not spot any people."
Foreign journalists said earlier that when they took a train in Wonsan they were not allowed to open the curtains until reaching Kilju, from where they went by road to Mt. Mantap, apparently to prevent them from seeing the exterior.
North Korean officials answer questions from a South Korean reporter at North Korea's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri on May 24.