Sunday, July 17, 2011

Newspaper in North Korea Part 2

The main source of this article, yet again, is Joo Sung-Ha's N. Korea blog - N. Korea Real Talk.
If you want to read the Part 1 of this article, go here.

From the blog :
Where would you find a newspaper with virtually no mistake, no typo, no misplacement?
Of course, nobody in the world reads every single newspaper in the world, and I don't either... but if I were to answer, I would say North Korea.
This looks like a public newspaper in a subway station in North Korea

From time to time, if you care about the world enough to read newspapers or get news feed on your smartphone/tablet PC, you stumble upon typos. Why? Newspapers are made by humans, and humans are not perfect. We make errors.
Recipe for chunky salsa??
Today's Breaking News : DURP DURP DURP
Grammar fail.
Where would you almost never find these kind of hilarity in the world? North Korea. Why? Because they've got the most strict proof-reading system and the harshest punishment for screwing up. Especially if somebody made a mistake regarding a story about the Dear Leader, he gets "revolutionized".

Being "revolutionized" means being sent to a labor camp. As I said in the previous article, working in the newspaper industry is a pretty cushy job in North Korea, since newspapers are the main propaganda tool for the Party. Sometimes you get put back in your position after a few months of "revolution", but many times you get buried in the labor camp forever.

One time, a small local newspaper printed "Rodong Shinshin" instead of "Rodong Shinmuon". Rodong Shinmun is THE central Party newspaper of the nation. The chief editor got the treatment of being "revolutionized" for 6 months.

Considering a small local newspaper gets this kind of treatment, we can only imagine what might happen if you screw up on a major newspaper. You won't even find spacing errors. Big newspapers like Rodong Shinmun is like a grammatical standard book.

Magazines and other publications also get the same treatment as newspapers. No mistakes go unnoticed.

Generally in other nations, newspapers go through four processes of proofreading. The writing journalist proofreads, then his manager and director, and finally language experts proofread the papers before they go on sale. Even after this mistakes are found occasionally. In North Korea, several more proofreading processes exist.

What happens when a mistake is found? Generally, it'd depend on how close the deadline is, how serious the mistake is... etc etc. If it's no big deal, then it's probably not worth stopping the printer and wasting all the papers and ink.

There is no such thing in North Korea. If a mistake is found, everything stops. If they find a mistake after all the printing work is done, then all printed papers are thrown away. (so much for the paper shortage). In one case, there was a mistake in the foreign-language newspaper they send out to North Korean Embassy all over the world. They paid very expensive shipping fee to ship them all back and send the correct ones all over. This happened in a nation where the government can't afford to feed its citizens.

All this nonsense is because for the ruling Party of North Korea, newspapers are a mode of propaganda, not a mode of information sharing. And for the Party, propaganda is invaluable; how much it costs doesn't matter.

Two more facts contribute to this weird characteristic of North Korean newspapers. No competition (regarding this, read the previous article), and the fact that the longest newspaper has only 6 pages. Most of the time, pre-written news articles handed down from the Party consists at least half of the newspaper. Sometimes the whole thing - since there is no competition, there is no pressure to become the first media to report a happening.
Every letter on this paper can cost a life.
Rodong Shinmun alone has over 600 editors and journalists. Compared to South Korea's major newspapers, which usually have around 300 total, it is a big number. Even bigger if you consider the fact that newspapers generally have 20~30 pages at least. They print 6 pages, with maybe half of that to write on.... and they have 600 people for that.

Even with all this precaution, mistakes are found from time to time. It is definitely not a common appearance, but it happens, according to some North Korean defectors. I wouldn't even want to know what happened to those folks at the printing press for the newspaper...

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