As of Monday, the Associated Press officially has a full news bureau based in Pyongyang, North Korea. Less than a month after leader Kim Jong-Il's death, the AP is cementing its media presence in the nuclear-armed country that has largely been hidden from the rest of the world.
Undoubtedly, this is a significant step for the organization — and a well-timed one, as Kim Jong-Un transitions into power in the country. A window into the country may prove interesting, but expecting any change in DPRK policy toward outside business is unrealistic. The relationship between their government and the AP has yet to play out, leaving unanswered questions about censorship concerns. Furthermore, the domestic population itself will continue to have access only to state-run news, which is hardly an invitation to more foreign companies.
Addressing the obvious censorship issue, Associated Press Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll told the Huffington Post, “We wouldn't have set up a bureau if we hadn't been able to operate the way we'd like to operate.” She further noted, “Every country has its own challenges.” Yet while the AP’s self-proclaimed responsibilities of “a fair and free press” are admirable, executing them in a country that ranks near the bottom of the world press freedom index is a feat much easier said than done.
Not to mention, the AP’s service is supplying strictly to audiences outside North Korea. The country’s citizens will continue to receive their news and information through state-run media — so the new bureau will essentially have no effect on North Koreans themselves. The AP’s operation is entirely separate from and unrelated to internal media. The domestic landscape remains unchanged, which is indicative of the country’s likely intentions to leave policies toward foreign business just as they are now: the West is not welcome.
Despite what Carroll calls “some bumps in the road,” the expanded AP presence shows promise, supplying information where there is unmet demand for it, and it will be interesting to see the coverage that comes out of the country. After all, some information is better than none, right?
A drastic change simply won’t be happening any time soon, but it is too soon to tell how exactly the situation will evolve.
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