North Korea is the second most-censored nation on earth, according to a new ranking by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
For anyone that knows North Korea or has been paying attention to press freedom studies and rankings, the news hardly comes as a surprise.
The government has complete control over the news media, which is limited to a handful of outlets that all report and reflect the official viewpoint. More >
Korean Central Television has appeared on a satellite above the Atlantic Ocean, extending coverage of its live signal to the Americas and Europe.
The TV channel, which is North Korea’s main state-run TV service, began broadcasting on Intelsat 21 earlier in April, according to monitoring reports.
KCTV has been available for more than a decade on Thaicom 5, which is situated above the Indian Ocean and puts a signal into most of Asia, Africa and Europe, except the extreme western edges. More >
Voice of Korea, North Korea’s international shortwave broadcasting station, will use the following schedule from March 29 for roughly six months.
The broadcasts follow the same basic line-up each day.
:00 Opening signal, station identification: “This is Voice of Korea”
:01 National Anthem
:03 Song of General Kim Il Sung
:06 Song of General Kim Jong Il
:09 News, editorials (approx 15 minutes, but can be extended to full broadcast), followed by music More >
The BBC World Service is still exploring ways to launch programming aimed at North Korea.
The broadcaster had previously said budget cuts are hampering efforts to get its news and information programming into the country, but a new report makes clear the country remains an expansion target. More >
Greater access to information, particularly the Internet, will likely prove to be what ends the rule of North Korea’s regime, President Obama said last week in an interview.
Speaking to YouTube creators during an event at The White House, Obama said military options against the country were limited, in part because of the potential damage that South Korea could suffer in a conflict.
“Our capacity to affect change in North Korea is somewhat limited because you got a million person army and they have nuclear technologies and missiles,” said Obama. “That’s all they spend their money on essentially, is on their war machine, and we’ve got an ally of South Korea right next door that if there were a war a would be severely affected.”
The ability of the U.S. to affect change through sanctions is also limited, he said.
Here’s what he said:
News outlets have raised concerns over the reliability of defector testimony after Shin Dong-hyuk recanted part of his story this week. For Pyongyang, this is a welcome distraction from its crimes, writes Michael Kirby, chair of the UN inquiry into North Korea’s human rights abuses.
By Michael Kirby
Are elements of western media unwitting allies of North Korean propaganda? Does the way we cover news and opinion in developed countries play into the hands of autocratic and totalitarian countries, which are skilfully focused on hiding their human rights crimes?
These are questions posed by the response to the news this week that a North Korean defector, Shin Dong-hyuk, has recanted parts of the dramatic story of his escape from a political detention camp in North Korea.
The admission came to light after North Korea released a video in October 2014 showing a man who claimed to be Shin’s father telling his son to repent false evidence he had given to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea. Shin’s father said his son should return to the warm embrace of the Korean Workers Party and admit the falsehood of his claims.
Seeing his father, whom he had long believed to be dead, tormented the younger Shin. Eventually he told American writer Blaine Harden that some of the details in their popular book Escape from Camp 14 needed to be revised. Harden insisted the book be rewritten with full accuracy. Shin issued an emotional statement on social media last Sunday offering apologies to fellow refugees.
Where did this leave his testimony before the United Nations commission? Did it cast doubt on the accuracy of the fact-finding of that body? Did it require revision of its conclusions and recommendations? If Shin gave false evidence, did the whole inquiry collapse like a pack of cards? What could the United Nations do to prevent embarrassments of this kind in the future?
Instead of reporting on human rights in North Korea, these were the questions that many journalists breathlessly asked. These were journalists not from North Korea, but from western media.
Shin was only one of more than 200 witnesses who gave evidence to the UN commission. Of these, 80 witnesses were judged safe to give their evidence in public hearings. Gladly, they did so. The evidence was filmed and is online, available worldwide. Anyone can view hour after hour of distressing testimony that affirms the shocking abuses found in the commission’s conclusions. The evidence is believable and compelling. Everyone can reach their own conclusions upon it, except the citizens of North Korea. They have no access to the internet. And we have no immediate access to them.
Human justice is fallible. But it is still essential
International media is fascinated by this remote and peculiar country. Yet, because free access to the “hermit kingdom’’ is prohibited, media cannot go about freely investigating matters as it can in most other places. It cannot get the hard news that will slake the public’s demand for information and opinion.
The result has been, with some notable exceptions, an all too ready embrace of infotainment and trivialisation of the true picture of the abuse that was painstakingly described in the UN commission report.
We had the bizarre spectacle of a minor former sporting notable, Dennis Rodman, travelling to Pyongyang to visit his “friend” Kim Jong-un, the current Supreme Leader of North Korea. Astonishingly, this was treated as important. Virtually any horror story will be published: such as the statement that the body of the uncle by marriage of the Supreme Leader, executed in December 2013, was fed to wild dogs. The story was quickly traced to Chinese social media; but still it is still distributed. The haircut of the North Korea leader becomes a matter of endless reportage and humour.
On top of this, a few of the refugees who gave evidence of their suffering were selected for media packaging as “poster children’’. They were built up as heroes and “key witnesses’’. On their frail and often traumatised shoulders would seemingly rest the credibility of the entire refugee community.
That community numbers more than 23,000 in South Korea alone. They came forward in great numbers offering to give evidence to the UN inquiry which, for the first time, provided them with the opportunity of a public platform to tell of the wrongs that had been done to them and their families.
International media is fascinated by this remote country… yet it cannot get the hard news that will slake the public’s demand for information
The exact details of the inconsistencies that Shin now acknowledges need to be clarified. Was I surprised at his recantation? Not at all. My experience over 34 years as a judge repeatedly involved instances of such a kind. Human justice is fallible. But it is still essential. Trained decision-makers learn to look on all evidence with a degree of caution. Where grave crimes against humanity are asserted, there must be very strong evidence to support the conclusion that they are established.
Testimony needs to be confirmed and, if possible, corroborated. The difficulty with North Korea arises from the extreme secrecy imposed by the regime. They will not let media, still less UN investigators, enter their country. It is necessary to rely on outsiders. North Korea cannot ultimately prevent the world from getting to the bottom of the accusations.
Shin’s evidence was special only in that he claimed to have escaped from the most severe detention camp where he and his parents had been held as political prisoners. This was the “total control zone’’ of Camp 14. It now seems that it may have been another camp. This is a trifle. His camp may have been two stars on the horror scale whereas Camp 14 is three stars, but any detention camp in North Korea is horrible enough.
Until recently, North Korea denied the very existence of these camps. Now, in the face of satellite images, they admit their existence, but they blame foreign sanctions; everyone is responsible, except the regime.
North Korea cannot ultimately prevent the world from getting to the bottom of the accusations
We need to return to the undoubted facts. Grave crimes against humanity in North Korea have been established by strong, credible evidence. They have been happening for decades.
We should not be diverted from resolute action to demand accountability. In December 2014, the UN Security Council placed the issue of human rights in North Korea on its agenda. This was an unusual and a strong step. The international community needs to persist with calling North Korea to account. It should not be deflected from that course by the minor retractions of a single, highly traumatised person who remains just another of the tragic victims of the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang.
Michael Kirby was chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea (2013-14) and Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996-2009)
A U.S.-based group says a launch it is sponsoring of balloons carrying copies of the Sony Pictures movie “The Interview” into North Korea will go ahead, despite threats against it by the North Korean government.
The Human Rights Foundation said on Monday that the launch, performed by the group Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), would take place sometime this week. Park Sang Hak, who heads the FFNK, had earlier told local media that he was considering halting the launch after threats against him.
“Despite these and previous threats, HRF will proceed with launching balloons carrying leaflets, transistor radios, media and cultural artifacts into North Korea this week, as part of a broader effort to help defector groups break the Kim regime’s monopoly on information,” The Human Rights Foundation said in a statement.
The exact timing of the launch would not be revealed in advance “because of the increased security risks for the launches and the threats we’ve received from the North Korea regime,” said Jamie Hancock, a spokesman for HRF.
Such launches have been occurring for years and while each one serves to annoy the North Korean government, the level of protest from Pyongyang usually depends on internal conditions in the country.
“The Interview” depicts a plot to kill leader Kim Jong Un, an incredibly sensitive subject for the government.
After North Korea was blamed for the November 2014 hack on Sony Pictures, HRF launches a “Hack Them Back” fundraising campaign that succeeded in raising over $50,000 to fund sponsorship of future balloon launches.
The large helium-filled balloons that are launched from the border region typically carry several large plastic bags filled with thousands of leaflets that condemn the ruling regime in addition to other cargo like radios capable of receiving overseas broadcasts, U.S. dollar bills, and TV shows and movies on DVD and USB memory stick. A year ago, HRF sponsored the launch of balloons carrying the Korean version of Wikipedia on USB sticks.
The bags are fitted with timers that release them after a certain time in the air, in the hope that the contents flutter down over the North Korean countryside and into cities.
Korean Central Television (조선중앙방송), North Korea’s main national television station, has begun high-definition broadcasting.
The TV station has been available in standard definition via the Thaicom satellite for more than 15 years, and earlier in January a second high-definition feed of the TV station appeared.
The technical parameters of the new broadcast are as follows: 3696MHz, horizontally polarized, 4167 symbol rate, DVB-S2 format.
The new feed began by carrying KCTV’s regular standard definition broadcasts in a letterboxed format, so while the broadcast is technically in a high-definition format, the content isn’t … yet.
Recent coverage of major national events has been produced in widescreen format, which probably means it’s being filming with high-definition equipment and converted down to standard definition for the current broadcasts.
The TV station got a major upgrade in 2012 when China Central Television provided the broadcaster with around $800,000 worth of digital broadcasting equipment. Some of it can be seen in this photo, which was carried by Chinese media at the time.
North Korea’s satellite broadcast via Thaicom 5 reaches across a broad part of the globe including all of Asia and much of Africa and Europe. In this image below, the signal is receivable in all areas enclosed within the large outline of this map. However, a large satellite dish or at least 2-meters or more in diameter is required.
It’s not clear whether North Korea has plans for terrestrial broadcasting in high definition. The country began testing digital TV broadcasting at the end of 2012, according to a report, but state media hasn’t provided any updates on progress of the trials.
Recent models of tablet computer on sale in the country include analog TV tuners but no digital reception, although that might be due to cost rather than absence of broadcasts.