When I first saw the report here that an Elle Magazine columnist had declared “North Korea chic” to be one of this year’s top fashion trends, I immediately assumed that someone was failing to appreciate someone’s rather tasteless parody. When Americans do think of North Korea, they often infantilize it. Tasteless parodies may be our third-most common reaction to North Korea, after apathy and passive disgust. Sadly, having seen the screenshot of Joe Zee’s post, I think Zee was seriously suggesting that “North Korea chic” was a real trend:
This time, it’s edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.
As of last night, the offending page had been removed from the slide show and sent to Elle’s memory hole. All that remained were some reader comments (if one really “reads” Elle) that, given the venue, were encouraging for their relative moral depth.
This is disgusting and not funny. North Korea chic? Where are the starving and beaten children, women and men? Learn about what’s really happening in North Korea before you make stupid titles like this.
Not to mention ‘take-no-prisoners tailoring’. Way to cheapen the experience of people suffering in gulags up and down North Korea, Elle.
Leaving the slide for “N” nondescript only makes it more evident of the ignorant mistake you made. How about you stop hiring “fashionistas” and hire someone can use a dictionary or is actually aware of current trends? Nautical? Navy? Neon? I could go on if you are at a loss of ideas.
Elle does not acknowledge removing the image or apologize for publishing it in the first place, but does acknowledge its readers’ outrage in an unsigned post written in a shallow, bouncy style you’re more used to seeing in Tiger Beat (don’t try to deny it). I left a comment at that last link. Perhaps you’ll want to leave a comment of your own?
Max Fisher weighs in here, with the inevitable Asma Assad comparison. See also here and here.
It is deeply systematic and accepted as normal among China scholars to sidestep Beijing demands by using codes and indirections. One does not use the term ‘Taiwan independence,’ for example. It is ‘cross-strait relations.’ One does not mention Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who sits in prison…. Even the word ‘liberation’ to refer to 1949 is accepted as normal.”
Academics understand the code, he added, “but when scholars write and speak to the public in this code, the public gets the impression that 1949 really was a liberation, that Taiwan independence really isn’t much of an issue, that a Nobel Prize winner in prison really is not worth mentioning.”
Increasingly, foreign journalists are subject to similar pressure. Paul Mooney, a veteran Asia journalist for Reuters, recently was denied a visa, with no reason given, according to the agency. Knowledgeable China hands for Bloomberg News, the New York Times and The Washington Post have met similar fates.
Hiatt also refers to the case of Bloomberg News killing a major story about official corruption in China, which makes me distrust Bloomberg, at least until I hear some other legitimate reason for killing the story, and maybe after that.
But even if the Times and the Post were not outraged enough about Pyongyang’s corruption and censorship of our media, kudos to them for shining a light on Beijing’s corruption and censorship of our media. At moments when it is convenient for them to do so, the media make much of their vital role in the public debate that informs democratic governance. The media tend to win these arguments because not just because of they control what we read, but because they’re right. But with this unique power comes the duty not to whore it away, especially because it’s really us they’re whoring away.
Pyongyang also uses access to cultivate academic types. For those who still remember him, Selig Harrison used to boast incessantly about the number of trips he’d made to Pyongyang, and about his unique access to regime officials. Harrison’s views about North Korea’s intentions, however, have been proven to be reliably wrong.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for North Korea watchers: their independence (and thus, credibility) is inversely proportional to the number of trips they’ve made to Pyongyang. A corollary to this rule is that a journalist or academic who is unwelcome in Pyongyang is more trustworthy than one who is welcome in Pyongyang.
In a land of scarcity, North Korea’s scarcest commodity is truth, and it is truth that is transforming North Korea. In the last ten years, North Korea’s death-grip on the flow of food, consumer goods, and information across its borders was fractured, and probably for good. This change is enormously consequential to how we ought to approach North Korea. Even as inter-governmental “Sunshine” and engagement failed decisively–and probably exacerbated North Korea’s brutality–market-based engagement and information flows have been profoundly transformative. The Daily NK was one of the first to tell of that change, and one of the key engines that drove the flow of out-bound information. It was among the first to help the North Korean people tell us their story–to cry out to us for help.
Truth placed in the hands of its people will eventually cause the decay and downfall of this regime’s power structure, and truth in our hands will catalyze policy changes that will finally put an end to discredited policies that only prolong North Korea’s suffering. The first ones to give practical effect to this concept were the Daily NK’s editors, reporters, and courageous sources–who risk their lives every day because of their compulsion to speak the truth. The Daily NK is, in other words, the opposite of everything that I find so despicable about the Associated Press’s sellout to the North Korean regime. You don’t have to share that contempt to agree that the Daily NK provides valuable information, even that it is a necessary counterweight. I wish that a well-funded wire service would partner with them and make better use of its network of clandestine correspondents.
North Korea’s hacking of the Daily NK tells you that it has been effective. It was the Daily NK, after all, that broke the story of North Korea’s currency revaluation, an incident that disillusioned (perhaps permanently) thousands of members of North Korea’s nascent middle class.
One of my personal regrets is my own failure to submit columns to the Daily NK recently, but I count myself as one its strongest supporters. I hope you’ll consider supporting them at this link.
The Daily NK has provided us North Korea watchers for the last 8.5 years with big scoops like the currency “reform” of late 2009 and lots of smaller stories that further our understanding of everyday life in North Korea.
Last month they launched their outreach campaign to the international community with a Nightout and a Meetup in Seoul, and this month they’re doing their first crowdsourcing campaign (click image above).
Traditionally, charitable giving was not practiced in Korean society. As such the Daily NK and other NGOs/non-profits in Seoul rarely have attempted (and are often even skeptical of) grassroots funding appeals that we in the West are quite used to and have come to expect. So booya to the Daily NK for venturing out into unknown territory, here’s hoping it’s a wild success!
Yes, as you may have suspected, that’s where we all come in — if you’ve benefited from reading Daily NK articles over the years (One Free Korea has linked to them hundreds of times, I’ve been guilty of it myself even), please check out their appeal and consider chipping in the cost of a few cups of coffee toward improving their website’s design & security.
While they receive funding from NED, it’s still a bare-bones operation and will certainly make the most of our contributions. Their reporting often gets picked up and passed on by much, much bigger news outlets — the New York Times, the Economist, etc.
Note, not sure of the time and the hour of Joshua’s hopefully imminent return, but this is not he. To avoid confusion I will sign my name to posts until he can modify his template to include the author field on posts.
I also must admit that while I’ve never officially worked for the Daily NK, it’s very close to my heart. I’ve worked for nearly three years for the group that started them, I’ve volunteered for them, and I continuously benefit from reading their work and being friends with their great staff. So what are you waiting for! –Dan Bielefeld
PS, thanks to Adam for reminding me to get this up.
Joshua’s still away, but this is a first attempt at getting back to posting at least occasionally here. — Dan Bielefeld
Even infrequent readers of One Free Korea will recognize the important role the Daily NK plays in deepening and broadening our understanding of North Korea. For those of you in Seoul, I hope you can come out Friday night in Itaewon for their first “Nightout.” For everyone else, why not send them a few bucks with an online donation. I can’t think of an organization that stretches 1000 won further than the Daily NK. And yet it’s the New York Times, the Economist, and other much bigger-budgeted operations that regularly quote them.
Here are the details for Friday night:
Dear Friends: Daily NK is hosting a community outreach event, #NIGHTOUT with Daily NK, next Friday, July 5 @ 8pm in Itaewon. The purpose: to connect the Seoul-based staff — including democracy activists, North Korean defectors, and international researchers — with Seoul’s dynamic international community. We look forward to meeting you!
#NIGHTOUT with Daily NK: Support Free Media in North Korea
//Turn the lights on in the North by empowering media democracy in the South//
Daily NK, an acclaimed news periodical reporting on all aspects of modern North Korea and cited by major international media — such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, Al Jazeera, and the BBC — will host a casual community outreach event on Friday, July 5, @ Scrooge Pub in Itaewon.
LIVE MUSIC. PRIZES. AND A FREE DRINK.
Organized in concert with the media company’s first-ever crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo, the event seeks to connect the Seoul-based staff — including democracy activists, North Korean defectors, and international researchers — with the city’s dynamic international community. #NIGHTOUT will include noted guest speaker Kay Seok from Human Rights Watch and the National Democratic Institute.
FROM MUFFLED VOICE TO INFLUENTIAL SPOKESPERSON — DAILY NK’S PRESIDENT PARK INHO TO SPEAK: A former student activist who campaigned against South Korean authoritarianism but was ultimately betrayed by the untruths the Kim Il Sung regime propagated, President Park speaks about his civil society-based organization’s mission to promote the free flow of information on the Korean Peninsula.
The entrance fee is a 10,000 won donation that includes one free drink.
Where: Scrooge Pub in Itaewon, Seoul
When: Friday, July 5, 8pm
Directions to Scrooge Pub: From Itaewon Station, take Exit 1 and walk straight and make a right up the second street to the foreigner food alley. Located on the street behind the Hamilton Hotel and across from 3 Alley Pub/Sam Ryans. 02-797-8201
Address: 119-28 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
More info: dailynk at dailynk com
Press contact: development at dailynk com
FWIW/Disclosure – I work for the organization that started the Daily NK way back when.
Attempting to forge a new image for himself and his country, North Korea’s youthful supreme leader Kim Jong Un is allowing women to wear pants, platform shoes and earrings, making more mobile phones available, endorsing previously banned foods like pizza, French fries and hamburgers — and he’s giving kids free trips to zoos and amusement parks.
The 20-something leader’s focus has been on the younger generation. Following in the footsteps of his late grandfather, the country’s founder Kim Il Sung, he has announcing plans to create a “children’s heaven nation.”
“It’s all part of his image making to imitate a warm, fatherly impression like his grandfather,” said Dong Yong-Sueng, North Korea specialist at Samsung Economic Research Institute.
By now, everyone knows that the North’s missile test was a fiasco, but North Koreans don’t have this fiasco all to themselves. For example, until the day of the launch, the North had never done a better of job handling of the foreign press. It had successfully co-opted the largest wire service in the United States into a megaphone for its propaganda, and it had so effectively focused much of the rest of the U.S. media on its stage-managed rocket porn that the White House more-or-less called them tools. Even after Friday’s humiliation, the North Koreans are still writing their own narrative, portraying themselves as disciplined, spartan, and menacing, instead of revealing the pitiful anarchy that prevails where the cameras aren’t allowed to go:
The regime’s narrative went off-course, literally, when one bus driver took a wrong turn, showing reporters an unauthorized view of Pyongyang’s slums, potholes, and even people in wheelchairs. Even an AP reporter was candid enough in his observations to put the local Pyongyang bureau to shame. Then, when the rocket launched, the reporters who had gathered in North Korea were not only denied the chance to film the lift-off, they were the last ones to know that the launch failed … except for their North Korean minders. Was it really worth sending that many correspondents to North Korea for this?
They were cloistered in a hermetic hotel’s press room, which North Korean government chaperones would not let them leave for more than three hours. The minders provided no information about either the launching or its failure, participants in the tour said. Instead, the information went the other way, after the journalists learned about the event via messages, telephone and Internet connections from colleagues in South Korea and their editors at home.
“Now in bizarre situation our NKorea minders asking ME to tell THEM if rocket has launched,” Damian Grammaticas, a BBC News correspondent, wrote in a Twitter message. “Went up 4 hours ago but they have no information. Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, wrote in a Twitter message that the “gov’t minders seemed to have no idea about the rocket launch … we informed them. [NYT]
And in a flash, the North’s media strategy backfired, more catastrophically and consequentially than the launch itself. Read more
They didn’t mention the AP specifically, but they didn’t really have to:
The White House is pushing back against the media for what it sees as oversaturated coverage of this week’s forthcoming North Korean missile test.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this is a propaganda exercise,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told me. “Reporters have to be careful not to get co-opted.
The long-range missile test, which Pyongyang is touting as a peaceful satellite launch, has given networks, newspapers and wires a rare opportunity to report from within the country. NBC’s Richard Engel, ABC’s Bob Woodruff and CNN’s Stan Grant are among those who have already produced curtain-raising segments on the days ahead. The Associated Press is turning out blow-by-blow coverage, and reporters are tweeting and filing frequently.
But Vietor fears that by flooding the zone in North Korea, U.S. media outlets are providing the country’s leadership with propaganda tools that will only embolden their efforts to enhance its intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
“North Korea is trying to sell this to the world as being about space exploration, when really it’s about testing missile technology,” he told me. “They’re using the press, using this angle of a space mission, to hide their real goal.
At the same time, he said, “they are tightly tacking the press into tight areas so they only see military hardware. They’re not allowing them to tour the countryside and see the people who are starving. [Politico; HT]
I’d like to interrupt my advocacy of the violent overthrow of the North Korean government to thank the Korea Central News Agency, North Korea’s official “news” service, for being so much more transparent than the Associated Press has been about the new relationship between the two agencies. For the last few weeks, I’ve made a personal jihad of obtaining photographic proof that the joint photo exhibit by the AP and KCNA, which opened this week in New York, is not (as the AP justifies it) a window into everyday life in North Korea, but is instead (as the AP can’t quite manage to deny) a case of an ostensibly objective news service, one that touts itself as a fearless speaker of truth to power, prostituting itself to North Korea’s propaganda machine in exchange for preferential access to even more propaganda. It does so by co-sponsoring a photo exhibit commemorating the life of dead North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung, an exhibit that North Korea is justifiably touting as a propaganda triumph commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the elder Kim’s birth.
So far, my efforts to obtain this proof by indirect means have failed, which is why I’m so grateful to KCNA for posting dozens of incriminating photos of the exhibit online, which I now share with you below the fold. When you’ve seen those photos, you won’t have any doubts about the exhibition’s hagiographic and propagandistic character. Unfortunately, North Korea is better equipped with rocket scientists than competent web designers, so there are no permlinks to the KCNA article, or to the slide show or video accompanying it. Rather than send you hunting for the photos, and because North Korea has a way of disappearing things, facts, and people, I’ve uploaded them to this post, below the fold. If you want to read the KCNA article yourself, click here, then look for an article dated March 16th that begins this way:
New York, March 16 (KCNA) — A photo exhibition co-sponsored by the Korean Central News Agency and the Associated Press of the U.S. opened with due ceremony at the Rubin Art Museum on March 15 in New York to mark the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung.
On display at the exhibition under the theme “True Picture of Korea” are photos of undying revolutionary exploits President Kim Il Sung, leader Kim Jong Il and the dear respected Kim Jong Un performed for the building of a thriving nation, people’s happiness, independent and peaceful reunification of Korea and global independence. Photos also deal with their revolutionary activities and great personalities.
Among them are photos of the might of a harmonious whole of the leader and people, achievements made by the DPRK in different fields including politics, economy and culture under the leadership of the Party and the leader and happy life of the Korean people.
Not surprisingly, the AP has a slightly different way of marketing this outrage. A few days ago, it blunderbussed a press release off to the nation’s major newspapers to plug this propaganda exhibit. I’m still waiting for the AP to respond to my e-mailed questions, but as it turns out, the AP does respond to questions from bloggers who don’t ask uncomfortable questions. Here are two additional photographs of the exhibit, via German blogger Ronda Hauben (ht: Spelunker):
If that doesn’t seem conclusive enough, perhaps you didn’t notice the text:
A joint exhibition by The Associated Press and the Korean Central News Agency
Marking 100 Years Since the Birth of Kim Il Sung
In her post, Hauben thanks the AP’s media relations staff for granting her permission to post these photographs. You’ll see from the tone of Hauben’s post — she uses phrases like “hostile U.S. policy toward North Korea” without giving the impression of intentional irony — that she’s a willing consumer of the AP’s product who harbors little skepticism about the AP’s ethical choices.
By contrast, I have a lot of questions for the AP now that I’ve seen what KCNA has revealed. For example, who pays the salaries of the two KCNA “journalists” embedded in the AP’s Pyongyang bureau, and if so, how much are those salaries? What are the professional journalistic qualifications of these men, in light of Reporters Without Borders having recently “found that the government media have evolved little and continue to act as Kim Jong-il’s propaganda outlets,” while independent journalism is punishable by death? Did the AP have the option of not employing them? What is the AP is paying the North Korean government for its office space, equipment, and other various charges? Was it the AP that paid for the art gallery in New York? How about the air fare for the North Korean propagandists? How about those glossy foam core portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il — did the AP pay for those, too? If money changed hands, did the AP obtain a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, given all of the financial sanctions against North Korea? You’ll notice that the captions below the icons of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lack the tortured prose for which KCNA is so justly famous. Did the AP give KCNA any editorial assistance with its propaganda this time, you know, to make it more marketable to American audiences? As a reader, I’d like to know what those agreements with the North Korean government say about the content of the AP’s articles, whether the North Koreans have the right to censor them, whether the AP correspondents have to have minders accompany them at all times. And speaking of those agreements, can we please see those, at last? If you want to know the answers to those questions, or if you have questions of your own, why not e-mail them yourself? Their addresses are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. You’d be luckier than me to get even one response, but I doubt you’ll get two. It seems that the AP is looking for a new Manager of Media Relations.
When I consider the banality of such compromises, I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost the capacity to be outraged that we’re speaking of a regime that does this to people:
Or herds hundreds of thousands of them into places like Camp 22, quite possibly the closet thing this Earth has to a hell for the living.
In these times, any journalist with internet access can be a virtual Walter Duranty. The AP’s correspondents haven’t been to Camp 22 and won Pulitzers for telling us it’s a spa, but they aren’t asking to go there, either. They know that it exists, and have as good an idea of what goes on there as the rest of us, and yet they still have the unmitigated gall to tell their readers that this is what life is really like for the people of North Korea. Consider: a reader who actually believes the AP’s reporting knows less about North Korea than someone who hasn’t read it. If there’s a better operational definition of journalistic malpractice, I can’t think of one.
But back to that press release. The newspapers that published it included the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The San Francisco Chronicle. The Times decided not to enable comments. This was an interesting choice for America’s newspaper of record, given that (1) it printed the AP’s press release wholesale, (2) the press release was essentially an unlabeled advertisement for the AP and its North Korean love interest, and (3) the last time the Times printed a sampling of David Guttenfelder’s “exclusive” images of North Korea — even without the KCNA’s added flavoring — many Times commenters reacted skeptically to the AP’s suggestion that it was showing us a unique and unfiltered view of life in North Korea. The AP’s latest press release wasn’t labeled as such, of course, or as an advertisement, or commentary. Instead, the Times, the Post and the Chronicle printed it as a news article. And as further proof that engagement does work, just in unexpected ways, the AP’s objectivity in reporting about itself is about on par with KCNA’s objectivity in reporting about Kim Il Sung. The vanity is breathtaking.
“My expectation is that this will be the first step in some peaceful reconciliation, and in a few years there will be trade, cultural exchange and tourists from each country coming to (the) other,” said Donald Rubin, who co-founded the 8th Floor gallery hosting the exhibit.
“It is our hope that this exhibition would give exhibition-goers visual understanding of the people, customs, culture and history of the DPRK, thereby helping to deepen mutual understanding and improve the bilateral relations,” Kim Chang Gwang, KCNA’s senior vice president, said in an address at the show’s opening.
“In this exhibit, we are offered two perspectives of the DPRK – as viewed by her native daughters and sons from KCNA and by AP journalists visiting to chronicle news and daily life there. We can appreciate the different styles and techniques and points of view,” Carroll said. “These photographs also show us that different people can find common ground.” [SF Gate]
Fortunately, the Chronicle did enable comments when it printed the AP piece. You might think a liberal town like San Francisco would have generated at least a few approving comments, but no. It’s about as positive a reaction as you’d likely get if Carrot Top played the Apollo, or if the Village People played Bob’s Country Bunker. Behold. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen such a wider chasm between media self-image and public reaction. The AP’s oblivious narcissism evokes the image of geriatric playboy unfolding his beach chair, rubbing lotion on himself, and waiting for the adorers to arrive, not quite noticing how parents shield the eyes of their children and order them to get dressed and run to the car. And while the AP surely deserves all of the abuse it gets here — with the possible exception of the comments that had to be removed by the moderators(!) — this comment is still my favorite:
The AP still hasn’t released the terms of its agreement with North Korea. This propaganda show is apparently one of them.
A final lesson we learn from this experience is that watchdogs need watchdogs of their own. I know for a fact that the AP’s ethical compromises are deeply concerning to journalists who report for well-respected and widely-circulated services, and who’ve privately e-mailed me about this story. Because they, too, know how rotten this is, several of them have been surreptitiously feeding me tips about this story, including the first KCNA report about this exhibition. But for whatever reason, the news services that employ them haven’t questioned the AP or demanded the release of its agreements with the North Korean government. Maybe they’re afraid of the perception that they’re just attacking the AP because they’re competitors, but it seems more likely to me that journalists, like other people, don’t want to alienate people they work with and like. The watchdog role, unfortunately, has been relegated to bloggers.
It gets worse. The location of the exhibit was the 8th Floor Gallery, slightly misidentified by KCNA “journalists” as the Rubin Museum of Art. In fact, it’s a distinction without much difference, because, according to the 8th Floor Gallery’s web site, it was established by “Shelley and Donald Rubin to promote cultural and philanthropic initiative,” and seems to specialize in promoting the culture of Cuba in particular. Want to know what else Shelley F. Rubin does? Thanks to commenter Spelunker, we learn that Rubin is a member of the Board of Directors of … Human Rights Watch, where her title is listed as “Co-Founder, The Rubin Museum of Art.” HRW’s official position on the legacy of Kim Jong Il is that he was a “brutal overseer of massive and systematic oppression that included a willingness to let his people starve.” Indeed, HRW’s Kay Seok had done some excellent research on North Korea, at least until a few years ago, although North Korea is hardly among HRW’s top priorities. The co-existence of that last fact with the fact that North Korea is probably the locus of the greatest number of and intensity of human rights violations anywhere on earth today is highly significant by itself. But the other problem with this is the same problem observers had when a HRW researcher was recently exposed as a collector of Nazi memorabilia. A credible human rights organization can’t be ambivalent about the ideology and iconography that enable concentration camps and genocide even as you are reading this now. If your Board of Directors is glorifying what your researchers decry, you’re ambivalent. If Human Rights Watch has a conscience, it will ask Ms. Rubin to resign from its board.
All photos that follow are from KCNA. [See updates at the bottom of this post.]
A group of North Korean journalists left for the United States Saturday to attend a photo exhibition set to open next week, marking the centenary of the birth of the North’s late founding leader, Kim Il-sung, the country’s media said. The North’s delegation, led by Kim Chang-gwang, vice director of the Korean Central News Agency, will attend the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition scheduled for March 15, the news agency said in a report.
The photo exhibition, to be jointly organized with The Associated Press, is scheduled to run until April 13, two days before the late leader’s 100th birthday, the American news agency said in its Web site. [Yonhap]
What’s odd about this is the AP’s extraordinary secrecy about this whole thing. I’ve scoured the internet for a time and place of the exhibit and found nothing. I’ve also sent the AP’s press contacts repeated e-mails asking for confirmation or denial of the story, and copies of their agreements with the North Korean government. The AP has ignored my messages, so I’ll print them here for you to read.
To: “jstokes@AP.org” ; “pcolford@AP.org”
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2012 12:49 PM
Subject: Memos & agreements with N. Korea, establishing P’yang bureau
Gentlemen, I operate a weblog on North Korean affairs with a concentration on human rights issues (http://freekorea.us). I’m interested in whether AP’s memorandum of understanding allowing for the establishment of the Pyongyang bureau is publicly available, and if so, whether you’d mind sharing a copy with me. I’d also be interested in any subscriber agreements or other agreements you have with the North Korean government or the Korean Central News Agency. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
To: “jstokes@AP.org” ; “pcolford@AP.org”
Sent: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 7:37 PM
Subject: Re: Memos & agreements with N. Korea, establishing P’yang bureau
Hello, as a follow-up, North Korea’s KCNA news agency is reporting that it and the AP are co-sponsoring an art exhibition in New York “mark the significant Day of the Sun, the birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.” According to the report, the exhibit will depict “photos of the great men of Mt. Paektu who made immortal contributions to the prosperity of the country, its people’s happiness, the independent and peaceful reunification of the country and the accomplishment of the cause of global independence.” Any truth to that? Also, any answer on whether I can see your MOU’s with KCNA and the North Korean government? Thanks.
I’ve received no response to either message.
Funny thing is, if this were the typical situation of a news organization trying to expose government malfeasance, the news organization could file a FOIA request, get an expedited response, and have its fees waived. But what happens when a news organization agrees, even tacitly, to disseminate that government’s propaganda and its frauds on a global scale? As it turns out, your only recourse is … write a blog post! So just to be clear, the world’s largest wire service has just signed a secret agreement, quite possibly selling out its objectivity to the world’s most oppressive totalitarian state in the process, and unless we can somehow draw attention to that, said news organization can do that with complete impunity. No law provides any recourse to even expose that to the light of day. Perhaps there are good, sound First Amendment reasons for that, but as powerful as the press is, shouldn’t it at least have some accountability to citizens? I live in a city where civil servants live in terror of the press. To most of them, the press is an unelected, unaccountable, omnipotent fourth branch of the government that rules the other three. Every day, journalists write stories about private citizens that expose private details of their lives and cause them terrible anguish. But citizens are almost powerless against the press. It’s very sobering.
Transparency about the things that matter to the public should be for everyone. I want the world to see how the AP has sold out its objectivity to the world’s worst tyranny. I want to put those photos online for everyone to see, and I need your help to do that. And if you’re one of the many journalists who reads this blog, or one of those journalists of better conscience who has communicated with me privately about how inappropriate the AP’s dealings with North Korea have been, then this appeal is especially for you. Right now, it’s the AP’s ethics that are hurting your profession, but what will hurt it even more is that the best of you fall silent out of professional courtesy. A profession finding itself in that situation has a duty to police itself.
An historic exhibition featuring photos of The Associated Press and the Korean Central News Agency will offer a rare glimpse into a nation long shrouded from view.
The exhibition will open on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist state, and follows AP’s recent opening of a bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea, the first to be established by a western news organization.
Unique access to the KCNA photo archive will offer images illuminating the history of the DPRK, including visits by dignitaries over the years, landscapes, culture and everyday life.
In addition, AP images, both historic and contemporary, will show the country through the eyes of non-Korean photojournalists, including AP Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder, who has made numerous reporting trips to North Korea since 2010. (emphasis mine)
How absolutely shameless. The gallery actually posted some of the photos to be exhibited online. I’ve posted a selection of these below the fold to illustrate my point, which is that only a few of the photographs have any significant artistic merit. Most are merely images of North Korean generals, dictators, or propaganda dioramas. The photo of the policewoman leading the children across the street looks staged, and staged to symbolize how the North Korean regime sees itself, and how it demands to be seen — not just by its own subjects, but now, by the AP’s readership. So taking the purpose of the exhibit at its word, are these images really representative of “the history of the DPRK,” or “everyday life?” Judge for yourself. The first three photos are from the AP, the remaining five are from KCNA. Read more