Censorship in North Korea

Censorship in North Korea ranks among some of the most extreme in the world, with the government able to take strict control over communications. North Korea is ranked at the bottom of Reporters Without Borders' annual Press Freedom Index, occupying the last place in 2017.

All media outlets are owned and controlled by the North Korean government. As such, all media in North Korea get their news from the Korean Central News Agency. The media dedicate a large portion of their resources toward political propaganda and promoting the personality cult of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il[1] and Kim Jong-un. The government of Kim Jong-un still has absolute authority over and control of the press and information.[2]

History

Kim Il-sung (Leader from 1948-1994)

Mural outside Songdowon Hotel, Wonsan, North Korea - panoramio
Mural of Kim Il-sung outside Songdowon Hotel, Wonsan

Kim Il-sung was born an ordinary man named Kim Sung-ju on April 15, 1912 at the peak of European and Japanese imperialism.[3] Kim Il-sung's rule was based on ruthless abuses, including frequent use of enforced disappearances and deadly prison camps to inflict fear and repress any voices challenging this rule.[4] Kim Il-sung's hardline views of limiting the freedom of expression of the North Korean people has been kept alive by current Supreme Leader and grandson of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un. Today, all local North Korean media outlets are run by the state. Radios and television sets are physically altered to only receive channels chosen by the state.[5]

North Korea's biggest economic, political and military benefactor under Kim Il-sung was the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin reportedly handpicked Kim Il-sung, who was a fluent Russian speaker to lead North Korea.[6] To help consolidate power, Kim Il-sung launched the Concentrated Guidance Campaign; a massive ideological census and registration of the background and political purity of each and every North Korean. The Soviet influence in North Korea was endorsed under Kim Il-sung and the censorship seen in North Korea today began with the nationalization of major industries, labor reforms, seizure of privately owned land and a propaganda campaign to enhance Kim Il-sung's image in North Korean minds.[7]

1946-Present: The Korean Central News Agency

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) is the state news agency of North Korea that was established on December 5, 1946. The agency portrays the views of the North Korean government for other foreign powers and countries to consume. According to its website, KCNA "speaks for the Workers' Party of Korea and the [North Korean] government". It is seen as the most influential news outlet in North Korea because its messages are geared toward foreigners and North Korea's population of 24 million people.[8]

It is the main, state-run news organization and is responsible for all news in North Korea and also distributes photos. Their content is available in Korean, English, Spanish and Japanese. From Jan. 1, 2011, the site also began offering video.The KCNA often broadcasts North Korean and pro-Kim propaganda. It has also reported fake achievements of North Korea, such as its space program and its standard of living as compared to the United States. It continues to label South Korea and the United States as "imperialists".[9] The news agency acts as the nation's public relations and multimedia firm, with news that is not hard to tell from propaganda. South Korea's Ministry of Defence maintains a group of readers who try to interpret the significance of the news agency's output. Some themes the KCNA consistently cover include denouncing the actions of the United States and Japan as well as promoting the celebrity and personality of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il. Their 2,000 employees are under strict watch to make sure they report in favor of their country.

Jang Song-thaek was considered the second most powerful figure in North Korea next to Kim Jong-un before he was executed because he was seen as a “counter-revolutionary” to the government. After his death in 2013, it is reported that 35,000 articles of Korean-language original reporting were deleted by the KCNA and his name was taken off every article in one of the outlet's biggest censorship crackdowns.[10]

Kim Jong-il (Leader from 1994-2011)

Kim Jong-il was made commander-in-chief and head of the military affairs commission by his father Kim Il-sung in the spring of 1994. Later that year in July, Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack and Kim Jong-il became the next member of the Kim Dynasty to rule North Korea.[11] Kim Jong-il upheld his father's authoritarian regime and strict censorship. He was known for using military propaganda to distract North Korean citizens from their lack of freedoms and access to outside information. Despite only giving citizens access to hyper-militarized government propaganda, many cell phones and DVDs were obtained illegally under Kim Jong-il.[12]

In 1983, Kim Jong-il's book The Great Teacher of Journalists was translated into English. In this book, Kim Jong-il guides journalists to take the best pictures of their leader, study their leader's works, and instill loyalty to their leader in others. Kim Jong-il includes stories of his own remarkable feats in this book, detailing when he saved a reporter from death and when he edited someone's political essay to perfection.[13] In the eyes of Kim Jong-il, a journalist's purpose is not to report the truth, but instead to loyally praise their leader.

2004-2008: Cell phone ban

The North Korean government has implemented policies to prevent outside sources of information from reaching the people of North Korea. Starting in the 1990s when famine overtook the country, traders used cell phones as a means to illegally bring food and goods across the border.[14] Cellular devices were introduced in North Korea in 2002 only to be temporarily banned two years later.[15][16]

In December 2008 Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company, introduced North Korea to Koryolink, a 3G network. Internet access is permitted only for foreign travelers or the elite.[17] By 2015, three million North Koreans had subscribed to Koryolink. Users of Koryolink must apply for permission to subscribe and are “subject to controls and surveillance by at least eight ministries and organizations between the party, state and army.” The network does not allow any access to international calls. Users sometimes will receive propaganda messages.[16]

In 2013, foreigners were granted 3G mobile phone Internet access by monthly data plan; the service could be implemented via USB modem or SIM Card.[18] Recently, with more government awareness of alternative access to external information, increased security measures to eliminate these resources have been enacted.[19] This includes higher border security where illicit cell phones gain access to China's mobile networks.[20]

These phones could be vehicles for releasing detailed news of harsh ruling within the country which is prohibited. Beyond punishment for those using phones within the country, danger exists for escapees spreading knowledge of the country's extreme laws. Text messages and cell phone photographs are sent to external journalists and activists in South Korea to spread knowledge of the conditions. Some North Koreans send information and act as journalists and sources sharing stories. Prominent news accounts surrounding Kim Jong-un's ankle surgery and his wife, Ri Sol-ju's 2012 pregnancy were released from these insiders.[21]

As social media and news applications via smartphone become the common thread of news outlets, North Korea pushes further curtailment. A tightly controlled cyberspace exists within the country where a small number of upper class citizens have access to an intranet, called "Kwangmyong".[22] In contrast to the otherwise global World Wide Web, this independent resource provides communication between industry, universities, and government. It is used to spread information through chats and emails which are both monitored and filtered by the government, allowing only a select group of researchers, propagandists, and media workers to access state media and items which have been removed from the public's Internet. With more government awareness of alternative access to external information, increased security measures to eliminate these resources have been enacted.[23]

Kim Jong-un (Leader from 2011-Present)

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building
Kim Jong-un in March 2018

Kim Jong-un rules with a heavy hand and has worked to consolidate power since becoming the supreme ruler of North Korea on December 28, 2011.[24] Ruthless in nature, he ordered the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and allegedly commanded the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.[25]

Kim Jong-un keeps North Korea under his surveillance through extreme censorship. The regime has a press freedom score of 85, with 100 being the worst score, and is ranked last in global rankings of 180 countries.[26] North Korean journalists must belong to the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and adjust their reportings to positively reflect Kim Jong-un's leadership. Foreign media are not welcomed and are often used as scapegoats by North Korean media.[27] Failure to follow strict guidelines as set forth by the WPK can lead to imprisonment, forced labor or death.[28]

Human rights violations in North Korea raise global concern. Kim Jong-un's leadership is notorious for torture, mysterious disappearances and sexual violence. Each layer of the government is structured to expel potential political threats and disseminate the ideology of Kim Jong-un, and those who attempt to circumvent censorship face steep consequences.[29]

Radio and television censorship

Radio or television sets which can be bought in North Korea are preset to receive only the government frequencies and sealed with a label to prevent tampering with the equipment. It is a serious criminal offence to manipulate the sets and receive radio or television broadcasts from outside North Korea. In a party campaign in 2003, the head of each party cell in neighborhoods and villages received instructions to verify the seals on all radio sets.[30]

Because North and South Korea have used different analog television systems (PAL and NTSC respectively), it has not been possible to view broadcasts across the border between the two countries without problems in reception or additional equipment.[31]

According to the Daily NK, it is possible to broadcast news for North Korea through short-wave radio. Possessing a short-wave radio is against the law in North Korea, but the radios are allegedly confiscated and resold by corrupted agents of secret police.[32]

"A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment," a study commissioned by the U.S. State Department and conducted by InterMedia and released May 10, 2012, found that despite strict regulations and draconian penalties, North Koreans, particularly the elites, have increasing access to news and other media outside the state-controlled media authorized by the government. While access to the internet is controlled, radio and DVDs are common media accessed, and in border areas, television.[33][34] Up to one in two urban households own a Notel (also called Notetel), a portable media player made in China which has been popular in North Korea since about 2005 and was legalized in 2014, and has been credited with facilitating the extension of the "Korean Wave" (Hallyu, the increase of the popularity of South Korean pop culture internationally) into North Korea.[35][36][37]

As of 2011, USB flash drives were selling well in North Korea, primarily used for watching South Korean dramas and films on personal computers.[38]

Journalism

North Korea is ranked at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index rankings published annually by Reporters Without Borders. From 2002 through 2006, the country was listed as the worst in the world and from 2007 to 2016, it was listed second to last (behind Eritrea) of some 180 countries.[39][40][41][42] In 2017, North Korea was ranked the worst again.[43]

To become a journalist in North Korea, one has to graduate from college. After an ideology review and a strict background check, the student is drafted by the college dean and the managers. The drafted journalist will normally go through a probation period of 4 to 5 years and is then stationed after an assessment.

In North Korea, journalism as a job is to guard, defend, and advocate for and defend both the party and party leaders. Since the role is defined as being a political activist and a fighter who can mobilize a crowd, a journalist in North Korea should be a true Kim Il-sung-ist and a fervent political activist, with a war correspondent spirit and political qualification. Journalists in North Korea are reeducated continuously.

The organization that takes charge of the reeducation of journalists in North Korea is the 'Chosen Reporter Alliance.' It is the strongest and the most systematized organization among the reporters and journalists' political idea education organizations. The organization trains journalists and reporters on philosophy, economics, world history, world literature, and foreign languages.

Arguing about the contradictions in the system of North Korea itself is considered treason and is treated as a major violation in North Korean society. Over 70 percent of reports of Korean Central Broadcasting are allotted for Kim's idolization and propaganda system. The rest of the reports are spent on blaming and predicting the collapse of the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

The reporters in North Korea spend their time writing flattering articles about the Kim Dynasty. Kim Jong-il used to punish the people who wrote from different point of view, saying "Words describe one's ideas."[44]

After reeducation, a journalist who works for over 15 years and has made a major contribution is titled a 'distinguished journalist.'[45]

Internet policies

In 2006, Julien Pain, head of the Internet Desk at Reporters Without Borders, described North Korea as the world's worst Internet black hole,[46] in its list of the top 13 Internet enemies.[47]

Internet access is not generally available in North Korea. Only some high-level officials are allowed to access the global internet.[48] In most universities, a small number of strictly monitored computers are provided. Other citizens may get access only to the country's national intranet, called Kwangmyong.[49] Foreigners can access the internet using the 3G phone network.[50][51] However, the IT industry has been growing and Internet access is starting to increase within North Korea.[52]

Internet access is restricted to regime elites and select university students. The state has created its own substitute "internet"  – Kwangmyong, but even this network is restricted to certain elite grade schools, select research institutions, universities, factories, and privileged individuals. Moreover, the intranet is filtered by the Korea Computer Center, which ensures that only information deemed acceptable by the government can be accessed through the network.[53]

The North Korean Ullim, an Android-based tablet computer available since 2014, has a high level of inbuilt surveillance and controls. The tablet takes screenshots of apps opened by the user and saves browsing history.[54]

See also

References

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External links

.kp

.kp is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). It was created on 24 September 2007.

Chinese-language literature of Korea

Chinese-language literature in Korea (Korean hanmunhak) is literature written the Chinese language in Korea, which represents an early phase of Korean literature and influenced literature in the Korean language.

Hanjeungmak

Hanjeungmak (Hangul: 한증막, Hanja: 汗蒸幕) is Korean traditional sauna. Intensely hot and dry, it uses traditionally burning wood of pine to heat a domelike kiln made of stone.

Korean calligraphy

Korean calligraphy, also known as Seoye (Hangul: 서예; Hanja: 書藝), is the Korean tradition of artistic writing. While early Korean calligraphy was written in Chinese characters, including Hanja, modern Korean calligraphy may be written using Hangul, the native Korean alphabet.

Korean court music

Korean court music refers to the music developed in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Very little is known about the court music of earlier Korean kingdoms and dynasties.

It was partly modeled on the court music of China, known as yayue. Korean court music also has similarities with the court music of Japan, known as gagaku.

There are three kinds of Korean court music: aak, an imported form of Chinese ritual music; a pure Korean form called hyangak; and a combination of Chinese and Korean styles called dangak.

There is also a genre of aristocratic chamber music called jeongak.

Korean folklore

Korean folklore is well established, going back several thousand years. The folklore's basis derives from a variety of belief systems, including Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism and more recently Christianity. Mythical creatures often abound in the tales, including the Korean conception of goblins.

Korean jade carving

The tradition of Korean jade carving dates back to neolithic finds along the Namgang river basin in Gyeongju. Jade rings and accessories were worn by the higher classes of society, especially women, from the three kingdoms period and reached their peak in the Joseon dynasty, the golden age of jadework. Korean jadework often includes buddhist motifs, cicadas, and peanut-shaped good luck talismans on the small scale, as well as larger-scale architectural pieces.

Kyunghyang Shinmun

The Kyunghyang Shinmun or Kyonghyang Sinmun is a major daily newspaper published in South Korea. It is based in Seoul. The name literally means Urbi et Orbi Daily News.

List of museums in North Korea

This is a list of museums in North Korea.

Naenara

Naenara (Chosŏn'gŭl: 내나라; lit. my nation) is the official web portal of the North Korean government. The portal's categories include politics, tourism, music, foreign trade, arts, press, information technology, history, and "Korea is One".The website carries publications such as The Pyongyang Times, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea magazine, Korea Today magazine and Foreign Trade magazine along with Korean Central News Agency news.South Korean users' access to the site has been blocked by South Korean authorities since 2011 and as of 17 July 2014 the website remained blocked.

Nate (web portal)

Nate (Hangul: 네이트) is a South Korean web portal, developed by SK Communications. In 2003, Nate acquired social media site Cyworld, and in 2004, it achieved first place in local page views with a total of 3.8 million, surpassing rival Daum for the first time.

National symbols of South Korea

The national symbols of South Korea are official and unofficial flags, icons or cultural expressions that are emblematic, representative or otherwise characteristic of South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and of its culture. Since the division in 1948, South Korea retained traditional symbols to distinguish from the national symbols of North Korea.

Notel

A Notel, also called NoteTel (a portmanteau of "notebook" and "television"), is a type of portable media player made in China which is popular in North Korea. The device has USB and SD ports, can play DVDs and EVDs (enhanced versatile discs, which are physically identical to DVDs but use a different file format), and contains a radio and TV tuner.Notels have been popular in North Korea since around 2005, significantly facilitating the extension of the "Korean Wave" (Hallyu, the increase of the popularity of South Korean pop culture internationally) into the isolated country. After an earlier crackdown that caused their black market prices to drop, the devices were legalized in December 2014. As of 2015, they are available in some government stores (possession must be registered) as well as selling on the black market for around 300 Chinese yuan (ca. US$50), and are present in up to one in two urban households, according to some estimations. In China, Notels are no longer popular as of 2015, but sell well in the provinces that border on North Korea.According to defectors, the Notel's multi-format support is used for evading detection of illegal media consumption: A North Korean DVD is placed in the device while a South Korean video is played from a USB drive or the SD card, which can be quickly removed in case government inspectors arrive and check the device's temperature to see if it has been recently used, leaving the DVD as an alternative explanation.

Radio jamming in Korea

Radio jamming on the Korean Peninsula makes the border region one of the world's busiest places for radio signals. Medium wave jamming is dominant in the area including Seoul and the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). South Korea jams all radio and television broadcasts from North Korea, and until 2013 jammed all foreign broadcasts, which was ended during the Park Geun-hye administration.

North Korea jams South Korean state broadcasts and foreign shortwave broadcast services which it believes to be against the North Korean regime. These include the Korean language service of the Voice of America, Free North Korea Radio (which originates from US transmitters in Guam), Radio Free Asia, and several other services and broadcasts.

Religion in Korea

Religion in Korea refers the various religious traditions practiced on the Korean peninsula. The oldest indigenous religion of Korea is Korean shamanism, which has been passed down from prehistory to the present. Buddhism was introduced to Korea from China during the Three Kingdoms era in the 4th century, and the religion flourished until the Joseon Dynasty, when Korean Confucianism became the state religion. During the Late Joseon Dynasty, in the 19th century, Christianity began to gain a foothold in Korea. While both Christianity and Buddhism would play important roles in the resistance to the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century, only about 4% of Koreans were members of a religious organization in 1940.Since the division of Korea into two sovereign states in 1945—North Korea and South Korea—religious life in the two countries has diverged, shaped by different political structures. Religion in South Korea has been characterized by a rise of Christianity and a revival of Buddhism, though the majority of South Koreans have no religious affiliation. Religion in North Korea is characterized by state atheism in which freedom of religion is nonexistent. Juche ideology, which promotes the North Korean cult of personality, is regarded by experts as the national religion.

Sinsoseol

Sinsoseol (Hangul: 신소설, Hanja: 新小說), literally "new novel" or "new fiction," was a type of Korean novel which began and grew during the Korean Empire, in the late 19th and early 20th century. It was sometimes referred to as gaehwagisoseol (Hangul: 개화기소설), or "enlightenment fiction."

South Korean literature

See also Culture of South Korea, Korean literature until 1945, and North Korean literatureSouth Korean literature is literature written or produced in South Korea following the division of Korea into North and South in 1945. South Korean literature is primarily written in Korean, though English loanwords are prevalent.

Sport in Korea

Korea has traditional sports of its own, as well as sports from different cultures and countries.

The Schoolgirl's Diary

The Schoolgirl's Diary (or The Journal of a Schoolgirl) is a 2007 North Korean film directed by Jang In-hak. It debuted at the 2006 Pyongyang Film Festival as one of two films produced domestically that year, and was released in France at the end of 2007. According to Radio Free Asia, the movie has been banned in North Korea in July 2016.

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