Thursday, July 7, 2011

Newspaper in North Korea

As you might expect, it starts with "The Great Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il..."
This article is about North Korean newspapers, and like all things North Korean, what's so extraordinary and weird about it. Main source of this article is the blog of Joo Sung-ha, a journalist from Donga media (webpage : 주성하의 북한 Real talk)

Generally, the purpose of newspapers is to inform people of current affairs and breaking stories. North Korean newspapers, however, exists to spread Party propaganda and "educate" people of the Party's notions. Total of 30 newspapers exist in North Korea, 16 of them are daily newspapers.

The most extraordinary thing about newspapers in North Korea is that they don't have to worry about their newspaper going out of business. There is no market competition, no change in how many papers are being sold, no need to worry about revenue and profit.

Why is this? In North Korea, people with money to buy papers don't buy newspapers. Only the people party selected - AKA people belonging to the party - may read newspapers. In other words, newspapers are distributed to pre-selected pool of people. Therefore there is no concern over attracting readers, since customers don't buy newspapers from suppliers.

The only way a newspaper can go out of business is when the Party orders its closing. However, being such an effective propaganda machine, newspapers hardly ever get this kind of treatment.

North Korean newspapers are differentiated by what agency they distribute the papers to. For example, the Labor Party's newspaper is called "The Labor Newspaper(로동신문)", Internal agencies get "Democratic Chosun(민주조선)", Kim Il-Sung Socialist Youth Coalition gets "Youth Avant-garde(청년전위)"
Top left: The Labor News, Top right: Democratic Chosun, Bottom left : Youth Avant-garde
Having different names does not mean they are really in fact different newspapers. Every day's major news articles are provided by the Party anyway (it really starts sounding like 1984). Notice the picture above, 4 newspapers with the exact same title : "DPRK Chairman, the Great Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il Comrade visits People's Republic of China unofficially"

Rhodong Shinmun (Labor Newspaper, or newspaper of the laborers) 
Perhaps the most prominent and well-known newspaper in North Korea is Rhodong Shinmun. Founded on September 1st, 1946, it is also the oldest newspaper in North Korea. The chief director/editor/publisher of Rhodong Shinmun is also the chairman of Journalist Association of North Korea. This position is actually pretty high up in the Party as well.

Rhodong Shinmun publishes 6-page newspaper everyday, 365 days a year. They used to print over 500,000 newspapers at some point, but with the economic depression in the 90s, they had to cut down to under 300,000 copies because of paper shortage.

Typically, there is no usual newspaper contents like entertainment, TV, lifestyle, and so on. Just party propagandas.

Minjoo Chosun (Democratic Chosun)
Minjoo Chosun prints 4-page newspapers 6 times a week. The number of prints and coverage does not even compare to Rhodong Shinmun; however, Joo Sungha offers a little interesting fact about this newspaper.

The chief editor of Minjoo Chosun is a woman named Kim Jung-sook, and she's been sitting on that position for 25 years since 1986. She is also the only person in entire North Korea that has the name 'Kim Jung-sook".

Recently, when Kim Jung-un surfaced as the to-be-heir of North Korea, EVERYONE in North Korea whose name was Kim Jung-un was forced to change their name. Jung-un generally being a woman's name, a lot of women in North Korea had an unexpected tragedy.

Similarly, everyone named Kim Jong-sook was forced to change their name 30 years ago, probably because of its similarity with Kim Jong-Il, the current leader of North Korea. However, only that one Kim Jong-sook of Minjoo Chosun kept her name. Turns out, she's a relative of Kim Il-Sung, founder of North Korea. Her husband also turned out to be a very high official of the Party who was close to Kim Jong-Il. So basically, the top editor of this newspaper is the chief propaganda officer of North Korea. Among most North Koreans, her identity is not well known, so most citizens wonder what sort of great woman she is that she got to keep the forbidden name.

Most other newspapers are directly related to the vocation of the readers. For example, "New Day (새날)" is for teenagers over 15, "Boys Newspaper" is for everyone under 15. Others include "Traffic Newspaper", "Construction Newspaper", "Teacher's Newspaper", "Kim Il-Sung University paper", and so on. There is one newspaper for foreigners visiting North Korea as well, named "Pyongyang Times". You can imagine what kind of contents they put in that newspaper...

Last characteristic of North Korean newspapers is that they have no advertisements. Once in a while, they do list a few advertisements, but they are the Party's orders, not for profit. (I would guess that things like North Korea's new car, new railway, etc).
Minjoo Chosun paper celebrating "The Great Victory", when 100% of all voters "participated" and 100% of all voters voted on "Yes". I'm just gonna say that if you put down "No", then you were immediately considered a non-voter and shot.

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