Friday, April 29, 2016

P5DX - The "Secret" DXpedition That Wasn't

Well-known DXpeditioner Paul Ewing, N6PSE, ignited a storm of controversy in the DXing community when he announced in a blog post that he reluctantly felt forced to cancel a secretly-planned DXpedition to North Korea at the last minute. According to Ewing, in a post that was subsequently removed (see final paragraph), the project had been in the works for several years and started to come together while he was on another DXpedition, this one to South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands (see articles in May and June issues of CQ). 
In his post, Ewing said one of the conditions of approval by North Korea was that there be no public announcement of the operation until it was actually on the air. He also said the North Korean government required very large fees in advance. However, Ewing's efforts to raise contributions from the usual foundations and DXing organizations were not successful and he launched a tirade against these groups – which have funded many of his other expeditions – for their reluctance in this case. Ewing said that he and other team members put up personal funds to pay these fees, purchase equipment and have it shipped to a transfer point in China.

In addition, as Ewing tried to line up a team on short notice, word of the planned operation inevitably leaked out and made its way onto several DX news blogs. There were also fake spots on the DX clusters, supposedly from Ewing, of operating in North Korea. The last straw, according to Ewing, was when the North Korean government denied his visa application, apparently because of the leaked publicity. He said he could not support an expedition with so much of his personal money invested if he could not be there in person and decided to cancel the activity at the last minute.

Other DXers felt that Ewing was "biting the hand that feeds him" in going after the DX organizations when some of them apparently felt they were on shaky legal ground in making donations. Some apparently felt that what North Korea called "fees" could be interpreted by others as bribes, which would be a violation of the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is uncertain at this point how the cancellation may affect future efforts to put amateur radio on the air in North Korea.

In what might have been a "too little, too late" gesture, Ewing pulled down his blog post on April 29 after speaking on the phone the previous evening with Wayne Ordakowski, N0UN, who had first posted news of the upcoming operation on his blog. "In the interest and betterment of amateur radio," Ewing wrote, "I have decided to put away my P5DX Story." Similarly, Ordakowski removed what he had written in response to Ewing's original post, explaining that "we both decided that nothing we've blogged about … was doing anybody any good."