Open Sources, Feb. 13, 2013: Special Non-Nuclear Edition

I’D BEEN SAVING UP some anju links for later this week, but in light of the latest nuke test, I’m going to just clear the decks now.  First, in response to J’s request, I set up an e-mail subscription feature.  Tell me how that’s working for you.

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AP WATCH, PT. 1.  The AP’s Vice President admits, in effect, that the only thing AP has gotten access to is the regime’s propaganda:

Despite its presence in North Korea, Daniszewski said, AP’s only American correspondent in Pyongyang “hasn’t had good luck getting out of Pyongyang and doing stories,” he said, referring to the difficulties in obtaining government permission to travel.  “When we want to cover a story, we have to request interviews, request permissions to go to places either to government offices involved or KCNA, which arrange things,” he said.  [Yonhap]

Daniszewski has also made the argument to the North Koreans that its correspondents should be allowed to live in Pyongyang full-time.  Good luck with that.

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AP WATCH, PT. 2.  Ouch:

Namkung denies that he and Richardson work together on more than an occasional basis but serves as “consultant” for the Associated Press on its bureau in Pyongyang, staffed by two former employees of Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency. He does not discuss how much freedom the AP has to report from Pyongyang or what advice he gives on AP coverage from North Korea that scrupulously avoids such issues as the North’s human rights record or abuse of political prisoners.  [Christian Science Monitor, Don Kirk]

Update:  Don writes to note that AP raised a fuss about this, and that the CSM later revised the piece from “scrupulously avoids” to “rarely mentions.”  Although I’d agree that the revised version is more accurate — AP journalists occasionally do good reporting on certain North Korean human rights abuses — the AP has often shown more interest in stonewalling and bullying its critics than answering their charges, or preempting them with a little more transparency.

Afterthought:  Of course, it depends on how you define “from North Korea.” Don is absolutely right that all of the better, more objective AP coverage of North Korea’s human rights violations is filed from outside North Korea, even if some of it is based on Tim Sullivan’s observations while inside North Korea.  Anyone want to place odds on Sullivan ever getting another North Korean visa?

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AP MUST BE AWFULLY DISAPPOINTED at not getting an exclusive of the 2013 Pyongyang food festival, which was probably meant to serve as the regime’s response to recent reports of starvation and cannibalism elsewhere in North Korea.  The video of this festival follows a report that last year’s big Kim Il Sung birthday celebrations also coincided with starvation in South Hwanghae, North Korea’s rice bowl.  It does seem that North Korea has been paying attention to the bad press it is getting these days.

Yes, they certainly seem to be eating well in some parts of Pyongyang, don’t they?  Just don’t expect this food festival to be reported in Chongjin, Hamhung, or South Hwanghae.  The food is exclusively for the consumption of the elites, and the reporting is exclusively for the consumption of gullible foreigners.

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THE NORTH KOREAN FREEDOM COALITION announces the schedule of events for this year’s North Korean Freedom Week.  Most of the events will take place in Seoul, as they should.  For those who wonder what they can do about this, you can attend, volunteer, and contribute.

In related news, PSCORE will be holding a benefit concert on February 16th, which by an amazing coincidence, happens to be Kim Jong Il’s birthday.

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NORTH KOREA THREATENS TO CLOSE KAESONG, and I wish it was serious about that:

The threat came two days after Seoul said it will tighten inspection of industrial parts and materials going to the Kaesong complex in the communist state to reflect the recent U.N. Security Council resolution calling for tighter sanctions on Pyongyang.  [Yonhap]

They’re bluffing, unfortunately.  Kaesong is too big a cash cow for the North to close on its own. I strongly doubt that Lee Myung Bak would close it at the end of his term, or that Park Geun-Hye would do it at the beginning of her term, after having campaigned on a platform of conditional engagement.

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MORE OF THIS KIND OF ENGAGEMENT, PLEASE:  Despite South Korea’s switch to digital TV, many North Koreans can still get a good TV signal from the South.  North Koreans have learned how to evade the regime’s cell phone trackers, and New Focus has a useful primer on the types of cell phones available to North Koreans. Also at New Focus, there is this piece on the availability of computers in North Korea.  A lot of good reads in there.

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MEANWHILE, NORTH KOREANS who want the latest news use a low-tech alternative:  they get it on the train.

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KIM YOUNG-HO SAYS we’ve reached a turning point for human rights in North Korea.  I hope he’s right, and this New York Times op-ed provides reason for hope that he might be.  It remains to be seen whether the U.N. can play an effective role, even indirectly.

Japan is lending its support to the human rights push, although it understandably wants some emphasis on getting its own kidnapped citizens back.

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HORRIBLE:  “Assailants in northeastern Nigeria have killed three North Korean doctors, beheading one of them, officials said Sunday.”  The doctors were apparently there as part of an exchange program between North Korea and Yobe State.  You have to wonder if North Korea itself is so well supplied with doctors that it can to export a surplus.  Give a thought, or a prayer, to the families of the victims.


  1. The Islamist sect that killed the North Korean Doctors is called Boko Haram which apparently means “Western education is sacrilege”. Apparently the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy.

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