AP Watch

AP Exclusive: North Korea is a land of smiling, well-fed schoolchildren who all adore the Great Leader!

There are days when this blog almost writes itself:

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korean students in Pyongyang celebrated the first day of their new school year this week with flowers and confetti. It’s a moment marked by ceremony for students entering a school for the first time, whether it’s primary school, a university or something in between. It’s a tradition for the parents of primary school students to pin flowers on their new school uniforms. At middle school, older returning students do the honors for their new classmates. [AP]

I look forward to reading the AP’s detailed coverage of the first day of elementary school in Latvia, Turkmenistan, and Burkina Faso — all equally newsworthy events. Maybe they can cover those stories with the AP staff who aren’t covering the food crisis in North Korea’s outer provinces, its WMD programs, or its concentration camps.

The pictures accompanying the article are credited to Jon Chol Jin, who I assume works for the North Korean government. I point this out, because I don’t think this is the sort of thing the AP’s readers should have to guess. The AP should have disclosed it.



As it turns out, the school in question isn’t completely typical:

At Pyongyang Middle School No. 1, which late leader Kim Jong Il attended as a teen, older students showered their new schoolmates with confetti Monday and pinned bright pink flowers on their chests. Mothers wearing traditional Korean dresses posed for snapshots with their children, then squeezed into the back of classrooms as the students took their seats and opened up notebooks for the first day of school.

At the front of the room was a big whiteboard, with the portraits of late President Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall above it. At the back was a billboard with hand-painted instructions on rules and policies. “I promise on behalf of my classmates to study hard,” one student said in a brief ceremony in the courtyard outside the school.

Yes, all North Korean children have fresh haircuts, clean uniforms, full bellies, and love Great Leader Kim Il Sung! Only dastardly imperialists who slander the dignity of the Workers’ Paradise would say otherwise!

Has anyone else noticed that the AP’s by-lines no longer tell us who is writing its “news” stories from Pyongyang? This is something else I shouldn’t have to guess, but I think I can, and if I’m right, one of the unwritten headlines of this piece must be how the AP is taking all the fun out of reading KCNA. Now that KCNA has established its iron-fisted control over the content of the AP’s reporting, the AP’s journalists have been reduced to acting as North Korea’s killjoy proofreaders, sanding off guilty pleasures like “brigandish,” “traitorous,” and “the puppet group hurled all hues of riff-raffs and anti-DPRK hysteric elements” until all we have left is dull, processed pulp — in other words, all the objective truth-telling of KCNA and all the tangy zip of the McPaper. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like reading the news under Chinese occupation, it would be pretty much this. The AP reminds us just how slavishly journalism can serve the state — any state. Hail ants!


  1. Yes, I have certainly noticed that the AP’s bylines no longer tell us the difference between Jean H. Lee and KCNA. Thus America’s newspapers are splashed by a syndicated siphon of North Korean propaganda, like this disgusting headline hosing the country right now:
    “NKorea Leader Visits Unit Known for Anti-US Feats”

    Anti-US feats? Are you kidding me? It looks like a headline from the Taliban Tribune or the Somalia Pirate Post. ANTI-US FEATS? (Pardon me, I’m getting really furious.)
    Here is the headline for the same story published on KCNA’s website:
    “Kim Jong Un Inspects KPA Navy Unit 155”
    The AP Pyongyang Perfume Bureau sniffed their minders farts and then altered the fragrance for the US market, knowing most Americans still don’t recognize Kim Jong Un’s name and nobody has ever heard of ‘Unit 155’ or its so-called ‘feats’ against the USA. Compare the 2 reports:

    From KCNA website: “The DPRK has such matchless fleet thanks to the wise leadership and meticulous care of the President and Kim Jong Il, adding that their undying feats will always go down in the history of the country.
    Kim Jong Un once again highly praised the unit for such laudable military feats that startled the world as sinking U.S. imperialists’ heavy cruiser “Baltimore”… and capturing the U.S. imperialists’ armed spy ship “Pueblo” when intruding into the territorial waters of the DPRK in peacetime.”

    From AP:
    “The North’s official media said Friday that the unit visited by leader Kim Jong Un sank the USS Baltimore during the Korean War. Outside military historians dispute that claim.
    The official media also credited the unit with capturing the USS Pueblo in 1968. That ship was seized while on a spying mission off the North’s coast. It is still displayed in Pyongyang.”

    Outside military historians? AP added this disclaimer, which does not appear in the KCNA version, perhaps as part of the Memo of Understanding that AP can’t simply mouthfeed the US with 100% regurgitated mush from Pyongyang’s mouthpiece (a small disclaimer or 2 is allowed in order to create the illusion of integrity)

    Yet one still must wonder why this is considered newsworthy, even getting repeated somehow under the strange subtitle “Breaking News Update” Kim Jong Un spends most of his time visiting various military bases anyway, so why is this particular inspection rebroadcasted from Tacoma to Palm Beach? Is it because of the “anti-US feats”? US editors can’t find more important stories coming out of Korea or Northeast Asia?

    Here is the entire AP article; judge for yourself:

    Google “anti-US feats” and you will get a roll call of the US media who printed this rubbish. Do you see your hometown newspaper?

    Tacoma News Tribune
    Seattle Times
    San Francisco Chronicle
    Monterey Herald
    Sacramento Bee
    El Paso Times
    Atlanta Journal Constitution
    Palm Beach Post


  2. To be fair, the presence of an AP story on a newspaper’s website doesn’t necessarily mean it ran in the print edition. Some newspapers make the entire AP feed available online.



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