How the world reported Kim’s death, and how North Korea reported that

Uncertainty surrounding the future of North Korea and a succession of amazing images of mourning from Pyongyang continue to keep the death of Kim Jong Il at the top of the news in many countries.

In Seoul and Tokyo (see picture, right) newspapers rushed out extra editions hours after the death was announced. Japanese newspapers publish such extra editions for a handful of major news stories each each year.

Although coming at a bad time for U.S. papers — many Monday editions had been finalized when the news came through at 11pm ET — Kim was featured on the front page of some major titles including most dramatically the free “Metro” newspaper.

The news featured prominently in Asian and European newspapers but barely ranked in some parts of the world, according to a selection of front pages offered online by the Washington-based Newseum. Some of the more dramatic can be seen below and a full selection is available at the Newseum website.

The placement on the front page gives a clue as to the importance of the news in a particular country. Perhaps more interesting is the images used to illustrate the story. Across much of Asia the faces of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un were given prominence but in other regions — where perhaps their faces are less known — newspapers went for mourners.

North Korea took notice of the coverage. A KCNA dispatch noted the wide foreign coverage — although it didn’t mention what was being said. The story gives some clue as to which foreign media outlets are viewed important. Notably missing is mention of any South Korean media coverage. It also fails to mention Japan’s best-selling daily, the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun.

Xinhua news, People’s Daily and CCTV and ITAR-TASS Monday reported about “Notice to all party members, servicepersons and people” issued in the DPRK on the demise of leader Kim Jong Il.

This sad news was also aired or carried by Prensa-Latina of Cuba, Kyodo and Jiji news, Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun and NHK of Japan and AFP of France, ABC of Australia, AP, UPI, ABC, CNN, VOA, Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and Baltimore Sun of the United States. — KCNA, December 20, 2011

The news was most prominently featured in papers from the western U.S., where it broke around 8pm.

Most headlines simply announced his death but the Daily News from San Fernando, near Los Angeles, went for “Tyrant vexed the West” and a later Associated Press analysis story on the front page. The Bakersfield Californian also went with something a little bit more imaginative. “Ruthless dictator starved his people while living high life,” it reported.


For the rest of the world, the next editions would be Wednesday morning’s papers. By that time there was more information from Pyongyang and many more images to choose from.

Among the most striking front pages are these from (top row left to right) The Joong-Ang-Ilbo in Seoul, Liberation in Paris, the Bakersfield Californian, (bottom row left to right) Heute (Austria), The Times (London) and Stars and Stripes (Pacific Edition, Tokyo).

The coverage wasn’t all negative. One of the most striking front pages, that possibly had expats in Beijing shaking their heads on Wednesday morning, came from The China Daily which mourned “A Friend’s Departure.” You can read the online version of the story here.


Here’s a larger gallery of newspaper front pages. Even more can be found at the Newseum website.


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