Coverage of the 7th Workers’ Party Congress was comprehensive on Korean Central Television. The state-run propaganda mouthpiece ran daily reports on the congress, the full text of official announcements, replayed Kim Jong Un’s speech several times and covered a mass rally held at the close of the four day event.
And while the coverage was pretty much as expected, the lack of a fixed broadcast schedule each day indicated the station was pretty much figuring things out as it went along. While that still means heavy control of the broadcast output, it is about the closest North Korean media comes to running off-script.
May 6 – Day One
Programming on KCTV started early at 0800 as it often does on important days instead of the more usual 1500 for a weekday. But despite the extra hours, KCTV was silent all day on what was happening inside the congress. While its opening had been widely announced, the 5pm and 8pm evening news came and went without a mention of what had happened.
Programming didn’t diverge from the announced schedule until around 2130, when the scheduled program failed to appear. And then, precisely at 2200, a 37-minute round-up of day one titled “조선로동당 제7차대회 개막 진행” was televised.
The report revealed the inside of the congress hall for the first time and contained about 15 minutes of clips of Kim Jong Un speaking.
KCTV then closed its programming for the night. Notably absent was the program schedule for the following day, which is normally broadcast with the late news and weather.
May 7 – Day Two
The broadcast day began at 0800 with the usual national anthem and songs of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. As the night before, no schedule for the day was announced and programming began with a repeat of the day one report at 0812. This was subsequently repeated at 1000, 1200, 1330, 1700 and 2000. Together, repeats of this report add up to 3 hours and 42 minutes of airtime.
That might sound like a lot of repeats, but by the end of the congress would pale in comparison to one particular broadcast.
Throughout the rest of the day, KCTV also broadcast several announcements from congress and followed with a second day report, called “조선로동당 제7차대회 2일회의 진행,” at 2200.
This time, viewers got snippets from speeches from other officials, including Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the Korea Workers’ Party, General Ri Myong Su, chief of staff of the Korean People’s Army, and Jang Chol, who is president of the State Academy of Sciences.
And in contrast to day one, when the seats behind Kim Jong Un were empty in TV images (first photo, below), on day two the stage was full.
Broadcasting again closed without a schedule for the following day.
May 8 – Day Three
Broadcasting began at 0800 and as on May 7, the closing report of the congress was repeated by KCTV. It aired at 0813 and 1200 but didn’t receive any further airings. That’s because something much bigger was about to be broadcast.
At 1430, an announcer appeared to tell viewers that a special broadcast would commence from 1500. That announcement was repeated at 1440, 1450 and 1455 before the full broadcast of Kim Jong Un’s speech was aired.
The broadcast of Kim’s speech, “김정은, 조선로동당 제7차대회에서 조선로동당 중앙위원회 사업총화보고,” clocked in at an impressive 3 hours and 4 minutes and was repeated again at 1900.
May 9 – Day Four
Broadcasting began at 0800 and a repeat of the full Kim Jong Un speech was played out at 0815 and 1400, making it four times it had been broadcast so far. The report on day three proceedings, “조선로동당 제7차대회 3일 회의 진행,” was broadcast first at 1300, having not been broadcast the night before. It was repeated at 2200.
And finally, at 2230, the closing report, “조선로동당 제7차대회 페막,” was broadcast.
KCTV again opened at 0800 and kicked off programming with a repeat of the previous evening’s closing congress report at 0815. That was repeated at 0815, 1200, 1700 and 2043. Kim Jong Un’s speech was replayed at 1300.
The big new coverage of the day was that of the closing parade and fireworks the night before. The 1 hour 40 minute broadcast was played out at 0955 and 2125.
Having repeated Kim Jong Un’s speech five times, for a total of more than 15 hours, KCTV perhaps realized that appetite for the full broadcast was wearing thin. It was time to slice and dice it.
On Wednesday, state TV cut the speech into five more digestible parts and broadcast those throughout the day.
Part 1, “주체사상, 선군정치의 위대한 승리,” went out at 0816; part 2, “사회주의위업의 완성을 위하여,” went out at noon; part 3, “조국의 자주적통일을 위하여,” was broadcast at 1500; part 4, “세계의 자주화를 위하여,” at 1800 and part 5, “당의 강화발전을 위하여,” was shown at 2020 after the main news.
Collectively, that’s the sixth time the entire speech has been shown and there appears to be no sign of a let up in its rebroadcasting.
On Thursday, KCTV kicked off broadcasting at 0800 and went straight into a repeat of part one of Kim’s speech at 0821. It appears the plan now is to play out each part several times over the next few days.
Part 1 of the speech, which runs about an hour, will also air at 1500 and 2028, but there will be no broadcast of any other portion of the speech on Thursday.
Assuming the same pattern plays out over the next four days, this will collectively account for another three repeats of the entire speech.
That will make a total of nine broadcasts of the speech since it was made last week — almost 27 and a half hours of airtime.
Update: It appears the pattern will hold. At the end of its Thursday broadcast, KCTV said the second part of Kim’s speech would air on Friday at 0820, 1500 and 2024.