Debunking Five Nights In Pyongyang – East Asia Tribune

This Saturday morning, I woke up to this well-written article entitled, Five Nights in Pyongyang, supposedly from accounts of an investigative journalist going by the byline Chu Jingyi, for a publication called the East Asia Tribune. It was an awesome read, too awesome you’d be left asking if the story checks out at all. Read on to see for yourself.


The report was a three-part series published just recently on their website, At first, I was captivated by the story (I still am, seriously it was that well-written) and how it narrated a series of events that kept me on the edge of my seat. I was thinking this is some news bureau running operations in Hong Kong by the way the article was written. The Chinese reporter’s command of English was alright, and the story was able to pierce right through and connect with my emotions.

Really, the story connected with me as I have this thing against human trafficking, white slavery and child prostitution. Add to that an inkling to read up on investigative reports and the story’s cloak-and-dagger appeal reminiscent of the cold war novels I’ve read growing up, I was suckered into reading through the entire three-part series.

Quoting from their article;

East Asia Tribune journalist Chu Jingyi travelled to North Korea in January 2016, assuming the identity of a Chinese executive looking to source raw materials from the rogue nation. During his six-day visit, Chu was exposed to some of the most closely-guarded secrets of North Korean society, which few foreign observers have experienced. Among which, the most extraordinary was a visit to a hidden brothel in the lower levels of a Pyongyang building. In this first part of an exclusive three-part series, Chu shares his story as he arrives in Pyongyang and proceeds to explore the mystery of the Pothonggang Hotel’s basement.

The first article seems to have gone semi-viral on Facebook. Based on this site, the article has been shared over 16,631 on that social network alone.

Finishing with three posts, I was left wanting for more. This was just too well-written that I shared it on my Facebook timeline saying this was ‘Pulitzer-prize’ material and then slept. It was a lazy Saturday morning after all, and I had nothing better to do.

It didn’t take long for the article catch the eye of several of my writer friends who also found the story too well written, too good to be non-fiction. By their own brief fact checking, the name of the editor-in-chief of the site, Alec Ustinov, didn’t even show up on a simple Google search.

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