Media of North Korea

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The media of North Korea is among the most strictly controlled in the world. The constitution notionally provides for freedom of speech and the press; however, the government prohibits the exercise of these rights in practice, unless it is in praise of the country and its government and leader. The government not only tightly controls all information coming in and out of the country, but seeks to mold information at its source. A typical example of this was the death of Kim Jong-il, news of which was not divulged until two days after it occurred. Kim Jong-un, who replaced his father as leader, has given every indication he will largely follow in his father's footsteps, however new technologies are being made more freely available in the country. State-run media outlets are setting up websites, while mobile phone ownership in the country has escalated rapidly. By early 2012 there were more than a million mobile phone owners in North Korea.[1]

Reporters Without Borders has consistently ranked North Korea at or near the bottom of its yearly Press Freedom Index since it was first issued in 2002. In its 2013-14 report, RWB classified North Korea's media environment as 178th out of 179 countries in the rankings, only above that of Eritrea.[2][3]

The state news agency, the Korean Central News Agency, provides the only source of information for all media outlets in North Korea.[4]

Overview[edit]

Press freedom[edit]

The press is tightly controlled by the state. Article 53 of the North Korean Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In practice, the government only allows speech that supports it and the ruling party, the Workers' Party of Korea.[5]

The late Kim Jong-il's book, Guidance for Journalists, advises that "newspapers carry articles in which they unfailingly hold the president in high esteem, adore him and praise him as the great revolutionary leader".[6] Media reports in North Korea are often one-sided and exaggerated, playing "little or no role in gathering and disseminating vital information true to facts" and providing propaganda for the regime.[7]

All North Korean journalists are members of the Workers' Party.[8] Candidates for journalism school must not only prove they are themselves ideologically clean, but must come from politically reliable families.[9] Journalists who do not follow the strict laws face punishment in the form of hard labour or imprisonment, even for the smallest typing errors.[10][8] Only news that favours the regime is permitted, whilst news that covers the economic and political problems in the country, or criticisms of the regime from abroad is not allowed.[11] Domestic media and the population itself are not allowed to carry or read stories by foreign media and can be punished for doing so.[8]

Restrictions are also placed on the foreign journalists that are allowed into the country under supervision, though many are not permitted to enter.[8] All the information gathered by newspapers and magazines is disseminated by the main news agency, KCNA. No private press exists.[11] The media effectively paints the country in a positive light, describing itself "paradise on earth".[12] With this, it encourages the population to adopt the "socialist lifestyle" — on one occasion an intensive media campaign was launched against men with long hair, claiming it reduces intelligence.[13]

Cult of personality[edit]

The media have consistently upheld the personality cult of the Kim family since the country's formation. It frequently reported on the activities of late leader Kim Jong-Il, regularly reporting on his daily activities, frequently including "prayers" to founding leader Kim Il-Sung. Previously, media would refer to Kim Jong-Il as the "Dear Leader", though this was dropped in 2004.[14] However, in January 1981, during the first few months of Kim Jong-Il's entry into politics, a survey revealed economic concerns in the media, rather than upholding the cult—60% to 70% of media coverage was focused on the economy in January that year, and between January and September, 54% of editorials in the Nodung Sinmun also referred to economic problems, with only 20% on politics, 10% on reunification and 4% on foreign affairs.[15] All indications are that this has continued under the country's third and current leader, Kim Jong-un; soon after his father's death he was acclaimed as the "Great Successor."[16]

Approximately 90% of airtime on international news broadcasts in North Korea is propaganda spent describing the publication of works by Kim Jong-il and showing various study groups in foreign countries, in an effort to allegedly mislead the North Korean public as to the outside world's perceptions of the country.[17] When Kim Jong-il visited Russia in August 2001, official DPRK media reported Russians as being "awestruck" by the encounter, revering Kim Jong-il's ability to "stop the rain and make the sun come out".[18]

Domestic and international coverage[edit]

The media is used to promote contrasting domestic and international agendas. Kim Il-Sung was said to recognise its power to influence North Koreans and confuse the outside world.[18] Often, news is released to the international community and withheld from the domestic North Korean population, and other news is released domestically but not internationally.[19] The media closely follows any foreign country's (particularly South Korea, Israel, Japan and the United States) relevant policies towards the country; any actions deemed unfavourable to the DPRK, its leaders or political system are strongly condemned in the official media.[20]

Though some international news coverage is given in DPRK media, much is ignored,[21] is mentioned very briefly,[22] or is announced several days after the event, as was the case with the Ryongchon disaster in 2004.[23][24] Reports are also notoriously secretive. The media remained silent on domestic issues, by not reporting on economic reforms introduced by the government such as increasing wages and food prices,[25] rarely mentioning Kim Jong-il until his first party position in 1980[26] and the launching of missiles.[27] Restrictions on the dissemination of information do not only apply to the civilian population, but to North Korean officials themselves, depending on ranking.[28]

In contrast, the idea of reunification of the two Koreas is a pervasive theme in the North Korean media,[29] as is the near constant "threat" of an "imminent attack" by the United States, Japan, Israel, or other nations.[30] In recent years, the media describes in detail satellite launches launched by the country as a sign of the DPRKs "economic prowess."[30] The media rarely reports bad news from the country; however on one rare occasion, the press acknowledged a famine and food shortages in the 1990s.[31]

It has had a role in supporting anti-government demonstrations in South Korea; in the late 1980s it launched a propaganda campaign urging South Koreans to "fight against the 'government' without concessions and compromise", using false claims to portray the demonstrations as fighting for communism, which, rather, were in support of liberal democracy.[32] It continues to support South Korean anti-government groups, quoting relevant societies and unions critical of the government policy[33] and denouncing government "crackdowns", calling for freedom of expression and democracy for South Korean citizens.[34] From January 1 to June 22, 2009, North Korean media was reported to have criticised the South Korean president 1,700 times — an average of 9.9 times daily.[35]

During the Khrushchev era of the Soviet Union when relations were tense, North Korean media would openly reprint articles critical of the USSR, often written by North Korean officials.[36] However, once relations between the DPRK and Soviet Union improved, the articles would no longer appear.[37] In the following years, both North Korean and Russian media would play down sensitive anniversaries.[38]

Editorial practices[edit]

Editorial practices in North Korean media are reflective of the country's foreign policy. South Korean government ministries and laws are referred to in quotations, such as the "Ministry of Defense" or "National Security Law", to imply illegitimacy; places like the United States, Israel, and Japan are usually referred as the "evil empire".

Newspapers[edit]

North Korea has 12 principal newspapers and 20 major periodicals, all published in Pyongyang.[39] Foreign newspapers are not sold on the streets of the capital.[40] Every year, North Korean press jointly publishes a New Year editorial, also broadcast by KCNA, which regularly attracts the attention of the international news media.[41][42][43][44]

Newspapers include:

Several newspaper journalists from North Korea were secretly trained in China to covertly report on events inside North Korea. November 2007 marked the first publication of the Rimjingang magazine, which is distributed secretly in North Korea and in neighbouring countries. The magazine covers the economic and political situation in the country. The journalists have also provided footage of public executions to South Korean and Japanese media.[10]

Television and radio[edit]

Further information: Radio jamming in Korea

The television broadcasting is managed by the Central Broadcasting Committee of Korea (until 2009 called Radio and Television Committee of the DPRK ). Radio and TV sets in North Korea are supplied pre-tuned to North Korean stations and must be checked and registered with the police, though some North Koreans own Chinese radios which can receive foreign stations.[11] It is prohibited to tune into foreign broadcasts. There are four major television stations: Korean Central TV, Mansudae Television (a cultural station only available in Pyongyang), Korean Educational and Cultural Network, and Kaesong Television (targets South Korea).[45] State television is always off air until its 5:00 pm evening news broadcast, except on Sundays which start at 6:00 am, and in emergency events or live events.[46]

All broadcast media in some way promotes the regime's ideologies and positions, such as juche, and regularly condemns actions by South Korea, Japan, China, Israel, the United States, and other nations. The media in recent years condemns the United Nations, and its position against the country's nuclear program.

Compared to Western newscasts, North Korean newscasts are very melodramatic in style. KCTV's principal newsreader from 1974 to 2012, Ri Chun-hee, was well known for the wavering, lofty tone she used in praising the nation's leaders and the hateful one she used in denouncing the West. Many North Korean journalists who have defected to the South have noted the contrasts with the more conversational South Korean broadcasting style.[9]

Due to the economic conditions in the country and the short broadcast day, radio is the most widely used medium. In 2006, there were 16 AM, 14 FM and 11 shortwave radio broadcast stations. The main radio stations are Pyongyang Radio and the Korean Central Broadcasting Station. There is also a black propaganda station called Propaganda Radio – which purports to be broadcasting from South Korea.[47] Some foreign broadcast radio stations (see external links) that target North Korea are often jammed, though this can vary. The authorities designate such foreign media as "enemies of the regime".[11]

South Korean television programmes cannot be received in North Korea due to incompatibilities between the television systems (PAL in North Korea and NTSC in South Korea) and the sets being pretuned, but watching them on VHS tapes on VCRs smuggled from China is relatively popular.[11] South Korean soap operas, movies and Western Hollywood movies according to defectors, are said to be spreading at a "rapid rate" throughout North Korea despite the threat of punishment;[48] inspection teams are regularly bribed or allowed to watch the cassettes themselves.[49][50]

North Korean broadcasts have been picked up in South Korea,[51] and are monitored by the Unification Ministry in Seoul, which handles cross-border relations and media exchanges.[52]

Defectors are also streaming North Korean television broadcasts on the Internet. Korean Central TV stream

Internet[edit]

Internet use in North Korea is restricted to internet cafes or hotels designated for foreign tourists in Pyongyang, connected via a satellite link. A few of the government elite with state approval are connected to the internet via a link to China.[53] The general population of North Korea do not have internet access, however the people do have access to Kwangmyong, an intranet set up by the government. North Korea itself has a limited presence on the internet, with several sites on their national .kp domain. These include KCNA and the Worker's Party of Korea daily, the Rodong Sinmun. Another site, Uriminzokkiri hosts North Korean television, movies, and other multimedia. Uriminzokkiri also fields a YouTube channel, uriminzokkiri 님의 채널.[54] Exiled North Korean journalists contribute to online sites and the blogosphere.[10] The Mosquito Net filtering model used in North Korea attempts to attract foreign investment, while the filter simultaneously blocks foreign ideas.[55]

Access to foreign media[edit]

"A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment" a study commissioned by the U.S. State Department and conducted by Intermedia and released May 10, 2012 shows that, despite extremely strict regulations and draconian penalties, North Koreans, particularly elite citizens, have increasing access to news and other media outside the state-controlled media authorized by the government. While access to the internet is tightly controlled, radio and DVDs are common media accessed, and in border areas, television.[56][57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ North Korea Press Freedom. Reporters Without Borders.
  2. ^ http://rsf.org/index2014/en-index2014.php Reporters Without Borders - 2013-14 World Press Freedom Index report
  3. ^ http://www.northkoreatech.org/2014/02/12/dprk-again-one-from-bottom-on-press-freedom-ranking/ "DPRK (North Korea) again one from bottom on press freedom ranking" - NorthKoreaTech.org
  4. ^ Ford; Kwon, 2008, p. 90.
  5. ^ Savada (1994)
  6. ^ Lister, Richard (October 28, 2000). Life in Pyongyang. BBC News.
  7. ^ Chong (1995), p. 228.
  8. ^ a b c d Freedom House Map of Press Freedom: North Korea, accessed November 30, 2008.
  9. ^ a b The voice of North Korea. Dec 8, 2009. The World
  10. ^ a b c Annual Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders.
  11. ^ a b c d e Liston-Smith, Ian (October 10, 2006). Meagre media for North Korea. BBC News.
  12. ^ Kim (2008), p. 19.
  13. ^ N Korea wages war on long hair. BBC News. January 8, 2005
  14. ^ North Korean media drop Kim Jong Il's glorifying title. AsiaNews / AP. November 18, 2004
  15. ^ Shinn (1982).
  16. ^ Alastair Gale (18 December 2011). "Kim Jong Il Has Died". The Wall Street Journal Asia. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  17. ^ Hunter (1999), p. 22.
  18. ^ a b Quick (2003), p. 687.
  19. ^ Oh; Hassig (2000), p. xv.
  20. ^ Kim (2006), p.253.
  21. ^ "North Korean media remains silent on US attacks". Yonhap. September 12, 2001
  22. ^ U.S. in great panic. Korean Central News Agency. September 12, 2001
  23. ^ Mysteries surround N Korea blast. Taipei Times. April 30, 2004
  24. ^ Bloomfield, Steve (April 25, 2004). How news broke in Pyongyang - silently. The Independent.
  25. ^ North Korean media silent on economic reforms. Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. August 8, 2002.
  26. ^ Clippinger (1981).
  27. ^ N Korea missiles could strike South. The Times (South Africa). July 6, 2009.
  28. ^ Hassig et al. (2004).
  29. ^ Hodge (2003).
  30. ^ a b Pinkston (2003).
  31. ^ Goodkind; West (2001).
  32. ^ North Korean media incite demonstrators in South Korea. Manila Standard. July 28, 1987.
  33. ^ Struggle for Punishment of Lee Myung Bak "Government" Launched in S. Korea. Korean Central News Agency. July 1, 2009.
  34. ^ Campaign for Second Declaration on Situation Launched in S. Korea. Korean Central News Agency. July 5, 2009.
  35. ^ N. Korea scorned S. Korean president 1,700 times this year: official. Yonhap. July 5, 2009
  36. ^ Zhebin (1995).
  37. ^ Kun (1967).
  38. ^ Zagoria (1977).
  39. ^ Pervis (2007), p. 22.
  40. ^ a b Marshall Cavendish Corporation; Macdonald; Stacey; Steele (2004), p. 341.
  41. ^ Oh; Hassig (2000), p. 90.
  42. ^ "Chinese agency reports on North Korean New Year editorial." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. January 1, 2004
  43. ^ North Korea urges unity behind Kim. Al Jazeera. January 1, 2009
  44. ^ North Korea message is mild on US. BBC News Online. January 1, 2009
  45. ^ Sung, Jeong Jae (January 7, 2010). "Revamp of North Korean Broadcasting System Revealed". Daily NK. 
  46. ^ Foster, Peter (April 9, 2009). North Korea: Kim Jong-il celebrates re-election as diplomatic deadlock drags. The Daily Telegraph.
  47. ^ Kwang-im, Kim (August 8, 2001). NK Actively Reporting on Media Reform in South. The Chosun Ilbo.
  48. ^ North Korea: 80 executed for ‘watching illegal television programmes’ The Times, 13 November 2013, Internet copy retrieved with subscription 13 December 2013
  49. ^ Cain, Geoffrey (29 October 2009). "Soap-Opera Diplomacy: North Koreans Crave Banned Videos". Time (Seoul). 
  50. ^ 안 (An), 윤석 (Yun-seok) (2010-07-22). "북한 주민들은 왜 한국 영화에 빠질까?". No Cut News (in Korean). Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  51. ^ North Korea TV viewed in South Korea. YouTube.
  52. ^ Unification Ministry forbids North-South news article exchanges. The Hankyoreh. February 5, 2009.
  53. ^ Zeller Jr., Tom (October 23, 2006). Link by Link; The Internet Black Hole That Is North Korea. The New York Times.
  54. ^ uriminzokkiri 님의 채널
  55. ^ Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights in the Digital Age, Giovanni Ziccardi, Springer Netherlands, 2013 p. 301, ISBN 978-94-007-5275-7
  56. ^ "Illicit access to foreign media is changing North Koreans’ worldview, study says". The Washington Post. Associated Press. May 10, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012. 
  57. ^ Nat Kretchun, Jane Kim (May 10, 2012). "A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment". InterMedia. Retrieved May 10, 2012. "The primary focus of the study was on the ability of North Koreans to access outside information from foreign sources through a variety of media, communication technologies and personal sources. The relationship between information exposure on North Koreans’ perceptions of the outside world and their own country was also analyzed." 

Bibliography[edit]

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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.
 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

External links[edit]

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North Korean online media aimed at foreign audience

Foreign media targeted at North Korea

Analysis

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