AP Exclusive: 100% of North Koreans interviewed by other North Koreans in a bar in Pyongyang applaud missile launch!

According to an exclusive, groundbreaking AP report from the frontier of journalism — Pyongyang — 100% of North Korean citizens interviewed by other North Koreans in a bar support Great Leader Kim Jong Un’s completely successful launch of a peaceful satellite despite the hostile policy of the imperialist Barack Obama!

In Pyongyang, however, pride over the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Korea, though struggling to feed its people, is now one of the few countries to have successfully launched a working satellite into space from its own soil; bitter rival South Korea is not on the list, though it has tried.

“It’s really good news,” North Korean citizen Jon Il Gwang told The Associated Press as he and scores of other Pyongyang residents poured into the streets after a noon announcement to celebrate the launch by dancing in the snow. “It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space.”  [AP]

The AP concedes that it received no advance notice of the launch — “the plan was kept quiet inside North Korea until a special noon broadcast on state TV declared the launch a success” — but at least they got a cred for North Korea’s b-roll of the launch.  Anyway, who needs timely, newsworthy information or live video from the launch pad when you can have the correct views of The People?

At one hotel bar Wednesday, North Koreans watched raptly, cheering and applauding at the close of the brief broadcast. As vans mounted with loudspeakers drove around the capital announcing the news, North Koreans bundled up in parkas ran outside to celebrate.

Here’s an exclusive photograph of groundbreaking AP journalism in action:

At The Washington Post, however, Max Fisher cites Robert Mackey of the New York Times, who thinks “it looks like it’s mostly just a professional dance troupe celebrating in the streets, though a few onlookers clap and dance along.”  Really?  The AP’s regime-issued North Korean “reporters” passed their repressive regime’s organized street theater off as a spontaneous celebration by ordinary citizens?  Say it aint so!

The report (or rather, one version of it) credits just two AP staff as reporting from Pyongyang — “writers” Kim Kwang Hyon and Jon Chol Jin.  Kim is identified in Isaac Stone Fish’s report here as a North Korean “about whom little is known.”  Even less is known about Jon, who has a very North Korean-sounding name, who is usually credited as a photographer, and whose work all appears to originate from Pyongyang.

In other news, Bureau Chief Jean Lee contributes this why-they-did-it “news analysis” piece from God-knows-where.  And in other other news not broken by the AP, an American citizen has been held by the North Koreans for over a month.  No word on what kind of beer he drinks, but I’m sure he’s telling his interrogators that he, too, fully supports the launch.

So, to summarize what the publicly available information suggests, the AP appears to have outsourced its North Korea-based coverage of one of the biggest stories of the year to two employees of North Korea’s state propaganda arm without any known journalistic credentials, apparently unaccompanied by any actual journalists, who proceeded to file a misleading report that happens to align with the regime’s propaganda.  Is this The Onion?  No.

So this must be The Onion, then:

No, this is The Onion:

“At this time, we are able to confirm that Ri Sol-ju did, in fact, manage to board the Unha-3 mere seconds before it propelled off the ground,” said Defense Department spokesman John Kirby, noting that Ri “quickly evaded her handlers to jump aboard the 100-kilogram missile” in a frantic, yet successful, attempt to abandon her life in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “When we found Ri this morning, she was floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean clinging to the remnants of the missile.”

“There were tears streaming down her face,” Kirby added. “She kept begging us over and over not to send her back.” [….]

“Please do not tell Kim where I am,” Ri added. “He will find me; he will search me out and find me. I cannot face the work camp. Please, please, I beg of you.”

At press time, North Korean officials issued a promise to all world nations that they would “be spared” if they returned Ri to Pyongyang immediately.

It’s another great day to be a consumer of American journalism.


  1. Don’t panic. They’ve launched once after four failures, so they haven’t demonstrated a reliable launch vehicle. They haven’t developed a small, reliable nuclear warhead. They haven’t developed a re-entry vehicle. Joe Cirincione’s comment is special to CNN.

  2. Is Joe Cirincione one of the many experts who told us for years that North Korea never acquired a significant uranium enrichment capacity, or who told us for years that North Korea would disarm if given the chance to engage and open itself to the world, or who were predicting that this launch would be another failure before it wasn’t? Personally, I’m more worried about shipping containers and errant Air Koryo flights than NK ICBMs, but I question the basis for those assumptions. The temptation to whistle past the graveyard is certainly understandable, but if our intelligence was so bad on Iraq, isn’t it capable of an equal and opposite failure with respect to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?

  3. By intel failure in Iraq, Joshua, d’you mean that Pyongyang possessed CBN technology at least five years after agreeing to stop and, of last, may have moved weaponized material across the border to China? 😉


  4. Joshua,

    I don’t know of any evidence showing that Joseph Cirincione has stated that North Korea never acquired a significant uranium enrichment capacity, or that it would disarm if given the chance, nor that he predicted failure of the recent launch.

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that its present bombs are plutonium. The W Bush administration suspected North Korea of uranium enrichment, but I don’t know if it ever proved its case.

    Cirincione advocates engagement and negotiation with a goal of North Korean nuclear disarmament, but he doesn’t promise success.

    If you can show that he predicted failure of the launch, I’ll be surprised.

    As to Cirincione’s factual assertions:

    North Korea has certainly not demonstrated a reliable ICBM.
    I don’t know if they have a small, reliable warhead, but it seems unlikely after so few tests.
    They haven’t demonstrated a re-entry vehicle, so I agree with Cirincione, that they haven’t developed one.

    If you have a little time, you might want to research him for yourself. You would be able to understand his position on North Korea better than I would, and you could learn something.

  5. It’s no dig at Cirincione, and I don’t claim to represent his views. My point is that we shouldn’t be pollyannish about things we really don’t know, and that the conventional wisdom has a poor track record on WMD programs generally and NK specifically. You should question their conclusions, just as you should question mine. I doubt we really know very much at all about North Korea’s progress toward miniaturization, although some South Korean intel sources suggested in 2009 that NK has made it a top priority and may have made substantial progress by now.

  6. As far as news about US citizen Mr. Kenneth Bae goes, as everything seems to be running through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang (as in the case of the CurrentTV ‘journalists’ in 2009), maybe Swedish media would be worth monitoring.

    There was a tremendous North Korea blog at Svenska Dagblatt (the NYT of Sweden), but it was discontinued in late October. Still worth reading with the old Google translate if you don’t like umlauts http://blog.svd.se/nordkorea/

    Sweden’s Foreign Minister Karl Bildt was just in Beijing and hanging out with the ICG crowd and presumably has a status update on Mr. Bae that no one has taken the time to ask him about. (I myself missed Bildt’s Weibo chat, which lasted an hour and did touch on human rights.) Anyway, it would be nice to read reassuring sentences in any media outlet like “Calls to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang were not returned” or “the South Korean Consulate in Los Angeles reported no contact with Bae prior to his departure” or what have you.

    Obviously one arrest of an American Christian in North Hamgyong (again! does this provincial public security bureau get a bounty for Americans?) does not an international incident make, but given what happened in 2009, it would be foolhardy to assume that Pyongyang is not going to try to get their pound of flesh to give up Bae, and that they’re more than willing to link his repatriation (or whatever the proper legal term is — Joshua?) to some more tangible goal of theirs. And in the meantime it’s another good reason to dust off that wonderful Ling sister double memoir of the good old days when Al Gore swore and made faces, and Mitch Koss made like Wile E. Coyote.

    Bottoms up!

  7. So, reporting on North Korea consists of going to swanky bars and asking the locals (who are obviously of the chosen class) what they think while they slam down beers? I want to be in the Pyongyang Bureau!

    Also, bagels at a bar? There are weirder things, I guess.

  8. I’ve no interest in slamming this AP report, though one should see it for what it is. What is much more interesting to me is that the North Korean people WERE, by and large, elated at the launch. They did willingly celebrate, and did feel stronger (and possibly even more prosperous) as a result.

    Therefore, what does it tell you when even a complete SLAM DUNK victory for the regime is not enough to persuade them to unshackle the common man to speak to the media (EVEN when that media is not represented by Yankee imperialist Jean Lee, but by her team).

    To those who say the launch failure admission in April was some kind of coming out party for a new dawn, I say think about THAT.

  9. I always notice references to the Ling/Lee episode of 2009, because that’s what got me curious about North Korea. I don’t remember anything about Al Gore swearing and making faces; maybe Adam Cathcart would like to help me.

  10. “Through the windows of the Butyrki Prison every morning and evening in June, 1945, we could hear the brassy notes of bands not far away — coming from either Lesnaya Street or Novoslobodskaya. They kept playing marches over and over. Behind the murky green ‘muzzles’ of reinforced glass, we stood at the wide-open but impenetrable prison windows and listened…the rumor had already gotten through to us that preparations were under way for a big Victory Day parade…”

    – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, _The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956_, translated by Thomas P. Whitey (opening to Chapter 6, “That Spring”)

  11. Adam, yes, Dagblatt’s blog looks/ed brilliant. It stopped before it could have covered recent revelations of deals with that dictator’s daughter and ambassador and popstar and charity head and yoga-performer and model and perfume-inventor and clothes designer and scriptwriter for Depardieu; so I’m scanning it for references to Sweden’s underwriting of certain DPRK exports.


  12. In this post, I noted the discrepancy between the upbeat AP report on the satellite’s success and the NBC News report that it was hurtling out of control. I thought Joshua might appreciate my mock photo caption.

  13. chris wrote:

    I’ve no interest in slamming this AP report, though one should see it for what it is. What is much more interesting to me is that the North Korean people WERE, by and large, elated at the launch. They did willingly celebrate, and did feel stronger (and possibly even more prosperous) as a result.

    Back in the middle of the recently ended decade, Iran was populated by a bunch of young people who were generally pro-American and were at best suspicious of their own regime and at worst outright loathed it. But when George W. Bush came along and rhetorically started turning Iran into the bogeyman, many of these same Iranians got a dose of national pride that help the likes of Ahmajinedad get elected.

    The point is, even in a place run by a terrible regime, national pride can trump even bad feelings toward the government. North Koreans may be keenly aware of how few countries can successfully launch a satellite (no matter how small) and may feel great pleasure that their country is (apparently) advancing toward the Advanced.

  14. Adam, Al Gore was born too late for the Victory Parade 24 June 1945, but Dwight Eisenhower reviewed the Parade of Athletes, 12 August. Here it is on Youtube. Maybe it inspired the North Koreans.

  15. Glans, about 2009 (not 1945, sadly!) Al Gore appears with utmost melodrama on p. 187 of the Ling Sister memoir (which may still be available through the O! Network), clenching his considerable jaw and saying “Damn them” about North Korean intransigence. Gore himself had been suggested himself as an envoy (Ling, p. 144), so perhaps he was disappointed about that. Gore is recorded as saying that, quote, “there may be more than one institutional player in Pyongyang“ that the US/Sweden was negotiating with, at least according to Laura Ling (p. 204). I think the Ling memoir was vetted by both the State Department, as Joshua mentioned at the time, as well as the DNC, or so it reads.

    Since you mentioned the 1940s, did you see the KCNA’s recent reference to the assassination attempt on Kim Il Song on March 1, 1946? We are all supposed to want to protect the leader with our lives, but I don’t recall any other explicit discussions (except for the general fever of the 1930s guerilla experience) where North Korean media described a specific plot, much less how a grenade got rolled at Kim Il Song after he was home in Pyongyang and was saved by a loyal Russian aide. There were some other references to the Sinuiju rebellion of November 1945 recently as well, made in oblique fashion by Kim Jong Un. Such references (as in the case of Kim Jong Il, who also mentioned Sinuiju incident as the ultimate negative example) seem to be ways that the regime talks to itself to buck up for internal rebellion, not an indication that it is currently happening, but who knows?

  16. Adam, when Al Gore said, “Damn them!” he was talking to Lisa Ling on the phone. She didn’t see his jaw or his face – you made that up. Laura Ling did tell the North Koreans she thought Gore would be willing to come, and they didn’t want him, but you’re just speculating when you say, “perhaps he was disappointed.” I don’t know if the DNC has a relevant organ for book vetting, so reckon you’re speculating here, too.

    As to the 1940s, you brought them up, I didn’t. You quoted Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s reminiscence of hearing a band rehearse for the Victory Parade while he was in prison. It was sad, touching, moving, but I didn’t understand its relation to the present discussion. Joshua doesn’t tolerate thread-jacking, yet he let this comment pass, so it must have been on topic in some way I don’t see.

    I haven’t been following KCNA. I visit it regularly for a couple of weeks, and then I can’t take it any more. It’s almost as bad as Fox News. I’ll try to get back to it again.

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