What? There Really Is a Walter Duranty Prize?

Wow. That’s so perfectly suited to the occasion, I wish I’d thought of it first.

If this award were only open to bureau chiefs of major news services who, while stationed in the capitals of repressive Stalinist dictatorships, faithfully followed the party line — that all was feast and plenty while millions were on the brink of starvation just a few miles away — why, the AP’s Pyongyang Bureau would win this by default.

Judging by her Twitter feed, Bureau Chief Jean H. Lee has been in Seoul for an extended period, and nothing her bureau has produced recently has been down to KCNA standards, except for David Guttenfelder’s photos of picnics, restaurants, and weddings. At the same time, however, AP reporter Tim Sullivan recently wrote a critical report about the North Korean regime’s stage-management of its image in Pyongyang.

What’s more noteworthy these days is what the AP hasn’t been talking about:

Food shortages have worsened even in North Korea’s southwestern rice belt and some residents have starved to death there, a Seoul-based online newspaper said Monday.

“Because of worsening food shortages this year there were reports of people starving to death even in South and North Hwanghae provinces,” a Daily NK reporter told AFP, referring to the country’s agricultural heartland.

Six people — children or the elderly — died in just one village in Shingye county after the authorities released an emergency supply of only one or two kilograms (2.2-4.4 pounds) of corn to each household, the paper said.

It quoted another source as saying that about 10 people had died of starvation on each collective farm in and around the coastal city of Haeju by April, following shortages in late winter. [AFP]

All of these places are within an hour’s drive of Pyongyang. I’m tempted to demand that the AP go investigate and report, but inevitably, all we’d see would be model collective farms, clean school uniforms, and soldiers raging against Lee Myung Bak.


  1. glad to see Claudia Rosett on the deciding committee.

    she should help give Jean H. Lee and the AP a real good run.