AP hopes to open Pyongyang bureau in early 2012

The Associated Press expects to finalize plans this week to open a news bureau in Pyongyang.

A team from the U.S.-based news organization is currently in the North Korean capital negotiating the details of the bureau, which AP President Tom Curley said he hopes will be open in early 2012.

Curley told South Korea’s Yonhap News that AP expects it will have “a text correspondent and a photographer, and we expect to have others as well” stationed at the bureau.

An opening in 2012 would allow the news organization to cover the April 2012 anniversary of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, which is expected to be one of the biggest events in North Korea for many years. The year could also be a crucial one for pushing forward the change in leadership from Kim Jong Il to son Kim Jong Un.

The AP previously signed a memorandum of understanding to open the bureau and the team in Pyongyang is attempting to turn that into a firm deal. It includes AP Vice President John Daniszewski, Seoul Bureau Chief Jean Lee, Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder, Director of Photography Santiago Lyon, Asia Pacific Regional Director of Technology Markus Kreutz and Asia Pacific Editor Brian Carovillano.

KCNA published a picture and video of the arrival of the team.

When the bureau opens it is expected to make AP the only western news organization with a text and photo bureau in the North Korea capital — a considerable coup for AP, which has been cultivating its relationship with the North Korean government for several years.

APTN, the organization’s TV news arm, opened an office in Pyongyang in 2006.

On the text and photo side, the only other foreign competition comes from China’s Xinhua and Russia’s ITAR-TASS, which already operate from Pyongyang. North Korea’s domestic news agency, KCNA (Korean Central News Agency), has recently begun pushing its content to a wider audience through the web and video deals with Reuters TV and APTN.

An affiliate of 38 North