Written by Tom Anderson, WW5L
Vice-President and Information Director
Lone Star DX Association

Apparent internal miscommunications within the North Korean government’s Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and the Ministry of Telecommunications and Posts over the approval of an operating permit to Dr. David Borenstein, KA2HTV, led the government to halt his recent P5 DXpedition before it could even begin, the New York physician said today.

However, the main purpose of his trip to North Korea was not amateur radio, but the donation of several thousand dollars worth of medical supplies from various Western countries to the Korean Medical Association. “I went to make sure these medical supplies got where they were supposed to,” he said. Dr. Borenstein specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Another situation that may have also played a part in the halting of Dr. Borenstein’s DXpedition operations was the death of his government assigned guide, one of the leading such guides in the country. The guide drowned at Wonsan, while he and other government assigned guides were escorting KA2HTV and others along the North Korean coast.

Dr. Borenstein’s DXpedition costs were underwritten by the Lone Star DX Association ( and equipment donated by many companies and individuals. Before he left the United States, Dr. Borenstein and the LSDXA were told his DXpedition operation should be fully accredited by the ARRL once he returned and submitted passport, visa, and photographic documentation showing he was in North Korea. This is standard procedure for DXCC DXpedition accreditation. “ The Lone Star DX Association is committed to the support of DX. We knew this would be a gamble, but thought the risk was worth it to try getting P5 back on the air. Hopefully our efforts and those of Dr. Borenstein has moved the ball forward in restoring amateur radio in North Korea,” said LSDXA President Mike Thomas, NA5U..

The miscommunications developed when a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Cultural Relations official issued the operating permit, while the government’s Telecommunications and Posts officials, had not formally processed KA2HTV’s request for a permit to operate. Both agencies are part of the North Korean government.

Dr. Borenstein was planning on beginning his full time P5 operations on August 20, when DPRK officials suddenly called him into a meeting. “They told me the person who gave the authority in the committee should not have given it because of a mix up with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Posts,” he said. “Up until then I had no idea that I would not be allowed to operate” as government officials had given no hint that the operating authority issued previously was not valid. “I was able to demonstrate amateur radio to these same government officials and showed them how it would benefit the country.”

“But the inability to operate was devastating,” he said. “After meeting with the government officials I just went back to my room for a while and watched the BBC, the only English language television program we could receive. I knew there were hundreds of stations around the world waiting to make a P5 contact and I could not get on the air.”

“The Lone Star DX Association and I had planned this DXpedition for many months and many donors had given equipment and their time and effort to make this operation occur,” he said.

Both KA2HTV and the LSDXA would like to thank the following sponsors for their donation of equipment: Tennadyne log periodic antennas, Yaesu and Vertex Standard radios, ACOM International amplifiers, Texas Towers, W4MPY—“The QSL Man”, GigaParts, Buddipole, Hex Beam, High Sierra, Press Jones—“The Wireman”, Heil Sound, North Alabama DX Club, Southeastern DX Club, LDG Electronics, DX Engineering, Ham Radio Outlet, and W4HT Electronics. In addition, the following individual hams provided logistical and other support: WW5L, WY5H, K4UEE, K9LA, KC2MWA, K7JA, W4WB, W4RT, W5QM, W9GJ, W2RC, QSL manager KK5DO, and the many members of the Lone Star DX Association.

Dr. Borenstein said these government officials confided to him they were hopeful a license for him to operate could be obtained in the near future, however no definite date was given. “They told me they would welcome me back, despite the fact it is very difficult for Americans to get a visa there.” Also, he added, there is no prohibition by the U.S. government against Americans visiting North Korea.

After the death of his guide, he said, many government leaders went into official mourning. “I couldn’t ask them about radio matters as these people were in mourning, so that delayed everything another two or three days.”

When he arrived Aug. 9 all of the radio equipment was processed through North Korean customs without problem and “it all went smoothly.” Later the Telecommunications and Posts ministry officials asked to inspect some of his equipment, which included an Icom 735 and 706 MK2G, and a Yaesu 857, plus an Acom amplifier. “They kept part of it for a week,” he said, before ministry officials told him he would not be allowed to operate.

When first planning the DXpedition, Dr. Borenstein said, negotiations had centered on the donation of amateur radio equipment to the DPRK as “a measure of friendship.” When the DPRK government took the equipment for inspection, they apparently thought this was the same equipment that was to be “donated.” The “donated” equipment taken for inspection includes KA2HTV’s own personal Icom 735 transciever, a Hexbeam antenna, a High Sierra tripod, coax, a Yaesu rotator, and a dual voltage power supply. “The equipment was not seized, they knew I had other equipment, they could have taken everything, but they didn’t,” he said, adding, “seventy percent of the equipment I took over there came back home.”

A receipt thanking Dr. Borenstein for the “donated” equipment was issued by the DPRK’s Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

KA2HTV does not consider this a failure, but rather a chance to open doors to North Korea for possible future amateur radio operations. “Although I didn’t get a chance to operate from P5, I believe the equipment donations and my visit planted the seeds for amateur radio operations in the future,” he said. “Some people may see this as a failure, but if you don’t try, you’ll never fail.”

KA2HTV received his first amateur license in 1980 and earned his extra class license in 1984.

Dr. Borenstein has guest operated from the following club stations or as an individual from: SP5PBE in Poland, 4X/KA2HTV in Israel, JY6ZZ in Jordan, CO2KK in Cuba, and 9G5DR from Ghana.

This trip to North Korea was not his first. He was in the DPRK in July 2004 for similar medical related reasons.


THE DXR is sponsored by the North Jersey DX Association.
Please visit our website:
scroll to bottom for subscribe/unsubscribe options

Reply via email to