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For Pyongyang, Global Digital Revolution for Foreign Eyes Only:You Tube Bans North Korean Video

21 Feb

For Pyongyang, Global Digital Revolution for Foreign Eyes Only: You Tube Bans North Korean Video for Stealing Copyrighted U.S. Video Game Soundtrack: Pyongyang Dips its Toes Awkwardly Into the Global Information Age by Sending Propaganda Out and Forbidding Information In.

The North Korean Video Removed by You Tube for Copyright Violations

The North Korean Video Removed by You Tube for Copyright Violations

YouTube has removed another North Korean government video from the state run Uriminzokkiri You Tube site for copyright infringement, according to the excellent North Korean Tech website run by Martyn Williams. This propaganda video used the soundtrack from the video game “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” after a copyright complaint from ZeniMax Media, a Maryland-based computer game publisher.

North Korea, which maintains a remarkably large international patenting program having registered worldwide claims to tens of thousands of alleged inventions from machine tools to science research, regularly rips off music, movie clips, foreign news footage, cartoon characters, and protected technology from Androids to counterfeit brand name cigarettes.

The You Tube removal of the video game soundtrack comes on the heels earlier this month of another You Tube removal of another North Korean propaganda video using a computer-generated animation clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” following a complaint by Activision. North Korea released that video also on its official YouTube page showing New York being destroyed by a military attack after a cartoon space ship circles earth and zooms in on New York City being attacked. The caption in Korean read: “Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing. It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze.”

Animation Clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” Illegally Used by Pyongyang on a Video Depicting a North Korean Spaceship Blowing Up New York Shortly Before They Detonated a Nuclear Bomb

Animation Clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” Illegally Used by Pyongyang on a Video Depicting a North Korean Spaceship Blowing Up New York Shortly Before They Detonated a Nuclear Bomb

The Uriminzokkiri social media site is based in China and designed for foreign consumption, and no North Koreans are allowed possession of technology to access even its governments own social media propaganda under penalty of being sent to harsh prison camps.

Increased publicity about Pyongyang’s increasing use of social media, including Twitter, Face Book, and You Tube has brought greater scrutiny and an increase of complaints of unauthorized use of copyrighted material could result in YouTube cancelling Pyongyang’s  Uriminzokkiri  account for repeatedly violating You Tube’s copyright policy agreement which all subscribers must agree to adhere to when opening an account.

North Korea announced they had opened a Gmail account last month on the eve of the visit of Google chairman Eric Schmidt, but the account was never activated as the DPRK@gmail.com name failed to meet Google’s requirement of a 7 character minimum for email addresses. As no North Korean’s are allowed access to email it is unlikely that Pyongyang seriously considered the aborted venture into the digital age a major setback.

In December, 2012, the same week Google Chairman Eric Schmidt announces he would visit North Korea is the state news agency KCNA revamped its website to include greater use of video, and photographs and a flashier less utilitarian style, but the update remains far from cutting edge.

kcna.kp was created in October 2010 as Pyongyang first dipped its toes in the waters of the digital age and updated in April 2011. Before that, the official North Korean government website was registered in an obscure one room apartment in a building in Tokyo, the daily news made available days later arriving clumsily by obscured delivery to a website hosted by sympathetic ethnic Koreans in Japan who followed strict instructions from Pyongyang.  That website, kcna.co.jp, still delivers Pyongyang produced propaganda in a carefully edited, less comprehensive version of the .kp domain, according to the excellent website NK News operated by European Korea watchers.

The newly revamped KCNA website focuses on the big stories according to the worldview of Pyongyang, and is broken down into categories which include world news, mostly dedicated to obscure people, publications, and rarely heard of organizations paying homage to the Kim family, studying Juche ideology, detailing the activities breathlessly of the current Kim, or republishing the works of the Kim Grandfather, son, and current leader, his grandson. A prominent feature id dedicated to the indefatigable, brilliant, and universally revered Kim Jong-un, which replaced a similar category that highlighted his father until his death in December 2011.

Stories from African, South American, South Asian, Russian and Chinese alleged Juche devotees are ubiquitous, leaving a reader with the impression that there is a mass global following that views the Kim dynasty as the most advanced nation on earth. The most common theme is worldwide praises and gifts sent to Pyongyang supporting missile and nuclear advances.

KCNA has a newly revamped website which has a visitor registration that asks for numerous personal details but offers no additional access(Photo via NK NEWS)

KCNA has a newly revamped website which has a visitor registration that asks for numerous personal details but offers no additional access(Photo via NK NEWS)

A new section visitors to the revamped KCNA website encounter encourages user registration, asking for those who visit the site to give their name, birthday, sex, telephone, email, address, and nationality as requirements of registration process, but registering offers no additional to other content of the website, but would allow Pyongyang to determine the IP address of visitors.

Prior to 2010, the KCNA Japan based site was purely text, as it remains today, but the addition of the KCNA.kp domain included pictures and video for the first time, but is carefully created to prohibit linking to news articles, photos or videos on the site, as remains true with the newly unveiled revamping in December 2012, making it impossible for readers to share articles.

NK NEWS asked its own website to analyze the new KCNA website and quoted them as saying “the site still loads content in the top middle container upon clicking side news links. However, these clicks call an Ajax script with parameters to load the appropriate content, and then it seems they set JavaScript variables and utilize cookies to validate the request.”

Prior to 2010, Pyongyang had virtually no online footprint. Indeed, even cell phones were banned until 2008 in the country after a brief nascent program that peaked at about 20,000 mobile phones was abruptly extinguished in May 2004 after an explosion on a train was determined to have been triggered by a cell phone used as a detonator by still unidentified perpetrators hours after then leader Kim Jong Il passed through the area on his return from China in his private train.

Despite North Korea’s increased web presence, there remains virtually no access to North Koreans themselves, the target audience being foreigners who are deemed useful for state propaganda.

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment: Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media

24 Jan

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment

Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media
Kim Il Sung and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un. Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

Kim Il Sung (R) and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un (L). Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

by Nate Thayer , January 24, 2013
NKNews.org

In the wake of North Korean state media Thursday issuing vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who alleged their young dictator underwent plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong Un had undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing “sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies… which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean rumor suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report posted last week by Shenzhen TV, which cited a diplomatic source who had spoken to a North Korean official while on a private visit to Pyongyang and confirmed the plastic surgery rumors.

KCNA referenced the Chinese report today, “Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency.” And reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, China’s central propaganda authorities subsequently issued a directive to their journalists on January 24 reading:

Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying:

Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)

What was particularly noteworthy was that the Chinese censors had specifically ordered their media to censor their country’s own state media report from Xinhua in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which had in this case been written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

The January 24 Chinese censor’s directive reference to “Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs” comes on the same day that Pyongyang released a blistering rejection of a new UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions and condemning the north for its December rocket launch.

That statement issued today by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission (NDC), vowed that North Korea would launch  “a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched…one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC went on to dismiss “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the U.S. or ROK.

“The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations,” said KCNA in a clear reference to Pyongyang’s only significant ally, Beijing.  “This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.”

Regarding the report on Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery, apparently Pyongyang communicated their grievances to Beijing and China’s ruling party instructed the official party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories.  As such, this Tuesday Xinhua issued a report that cited two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denied the plastic surgery rumors.

The rumours of Kim Jong Un having a face lift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus for months who have carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Following the new censorship directive, Xinhua said that “there have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry the same genes. While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, together this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua reported.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by China Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time due to internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to “refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” also came just two days after Beijing took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang by signing the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

For those with an unhealthy need for detail, here is the longer version submitted before legitimate length and style requirements required editing and cutbacks:

China issues Censorship Order on North Korea Reporting After Pyongyang Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”

Chinese Official Directive Orders Press “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts)”

By Nate Thayer

In the wake of North Korean state media issuing Thursday particularly vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who have alleged their young dictator has undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea has erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong-Un had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing ”sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, calling it “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean news reports suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report last week by China’s Shenzhen TV who cited a diplomatic source who, on a private visit to Pyongyang, had spoken to a North Korean official who confirmed the plastic surgery rumours. KCNA referenced the Chinese report,

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” said the KCNA.

Apparently reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, the Beijing central authorities issued a directive January 24 reading: “Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

中宣部:严格遵守有关涉外宣传报道规定,对朝鲜领导人个人生活(如整容)不报道、不评论、不转载。

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying: “Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)” 广东省委宣传部:深圳卫视报道了金正恩整容引发了朝鲜外交抗议,此事不要报道,包括新华社的澄清也不要报道。

What was particularly noteworthy was Chinese censors had specifically ordered Chinese media to censor China’s own state media report from Xinhua, in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which in this case was written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

Apparently, Pyongyang issued a demarche to Beijing, and the Chinese ruling party instructed the official Chinese party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories, and Xinhua issued a report Tuesday, citing two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denying the plastic surgery rumours. Xinhua had its correspondents in Seoul and Pyongyang write a detailed background of the story which has circulated in the often gossip fueled and unverifiable rumor filled South Korean media, concluding that media stories that Kim Jong-un has had plastic surgery six times to resemble his grandfather. The story has been reported for months in South Korean, Japanese, and other foreign media, but was reported recently on a Chinese news website, and then reported as fact on Shenzhen Satellite TV in recent days.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by Chinese Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports and issues that strictly control what Chinese media can report on and filter news or online discussion on issues the ruling Chinese party deems sensitive. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. “This Xinhua report was likely made for foreign consumption, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, which wold explain why it was written in both Chinese and English.’

Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” official North Korean central News Agency said Thursday. “Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” it said.

“Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” the Korean Central news Agency said Wednesday.

The rumours of Kim Jong-un having a facelift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus who for months carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Xinhua cited as evidence of the stories falsehood that “There have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong-un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry same genes.

While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua said.

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time for both internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Earlier this month, Chinese Journalists in the Southern province of XXX publicly refused to follow orders to censor reports on corruption, with the staff of the Southern Weekly holding public demonstrations.

On January 7, state censors from the central Beijing government“Ministry of Truth” issued the following: “Central Propaganda Department: Urgent Notice Concerning the Southern Weekly New Year’s Message Publication Incident: Responsible Party committees and media at all levels must be clear on three points related to this matter: (1) Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle; (2) This mishap at Southern Weekly has nothing to do with Guangdong Propaganda Department Head Tuo Zhen; (3) External hostile forces are involved in the development of the situation. Every responsible work unit must demand that its department’s editors, reporters, and staff discontinue voicing their support for Southern Weekly online. Starting tomorrow, media and websites in all locales must prominently republish the Global Times editorial “Southern Weekly’s ‘Message to Readers’ Is Food for Thought Indeed.” (January 7, 2013).”中宣部:关于南方周末新年献辞出版事件的紧急通知,各级主管党委和媒体,对于此次事件,必须明确以下三点:一,党管媒体是不可动摇的基本原则;二, 南方周末此次出版事故与广东省委宣传部长庹震同志无关;三,此事的发展有境外敌对势力介入。各主管单位必须严格要求其部门的编辑,记者和员工不得继续在网 络上发言支持南方周末。各地媒体、网站明天起以显著版面转发《环球时报》的社评《南方周末“致读者”实在令人深思》。

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to ‘refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” comes two days after Beijing on Tuesday took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang in signing a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket, which most analysts say was testing the rocket delivery system for nuclear warheads designed to reach the United States.

“China maintains that the Security Council’s reaction should be prudent and moderate, and that it should work for the peace and stability of the (Korean) Peninsula and avoid the progressive escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Monday.

The U.S. and China hashed out a carefully worded agreement in private negotiations over the last month to win Beijing’s approval of the UN sanctions. “China and the US have many differences in principles over dealing with the satellite launch. That’s why the UN negotiations have lasted for more than a month,”Shi Yuanhua, a researcher on Korean studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, was quoted as saying.

Diplomats say the U.S. circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. Security Council condemning the launch and expand existing sanctions.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

North Korean state media just released a statement by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission Thursday January 24 vowing “ a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC dismissed “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC built on Wednesday January 23 KCNA official reaction to the UN security Council condemnation and sanctions taken after last month’s launch of a ballistic missile rocket designed as a delivery system for nuclear weapons, “that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.”

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the US or ROK.

The National Defense Commission statement, according to KCNA said : “Our successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was a great jubilee in the history of the nation as it placed the nation’s dignity and honor on the highest plane and a spectacular success made in the efforts to develop space for peaceful purposes recognized by the world.

This being a hard reality, the U.S. at the outset of the year termed our satellite launch “long-range missile launch,” “wanton violation” of the UN resolutions and “blatant challenge” to world peace and security in a bid to build up public opinion on this. Finally, it prodded the UNSC into cooking up a new resolution on tightening sanctions against the DPRK.

The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations. This goes to clearly prove that the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered a new dangerous phase.
This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.

Moreover, this also indicates that the UNSC, which should regard it as its mission to guarantee sovereign rights and security of its member nations, has turned into a defunct marionette international body on which no hope can be pinned.

The DPRK National Defence Commission solemnly declares as follows as regards the adoption of the entirely unreasonable resolution on the DPRK:

We totally reject all the illegal resolutions on the DPRK adopted by the UNSC.

We have never recognized all forms of base resolutions tightening sanctions cooked up by the hostile forces to encroach upon the DPRK’s sovereignty.

Sovereignty is what keeps a country and nation alive.

The country and the nation without sovereignty are more dead than alive.

The U.S. should clearly know that the times have changed and so have the army and the people of the DPRK.

  1. Along with the nationwide efforts to defend the sovereignty, the DPRK will continue launching peaceful satellites to outer space one after another.
    2. As the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered more dangerous phase, overall efforts should be directed to denuclearizing big powers including the U.S. rather than the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
    The army and people of the DPRK drew a final conclusion that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.
    “Under this situation the DPRK can not but declare that there will no longer exist the six-party talks and the September 19 joint statement.”
    No dialogue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be possible in the future even though there may be dialogues and negotiations on ensuring peace and security in the region including the Korean Peninsula.
    3. We will launch an all-out action to foil the hostile policy toward the DPRK being pursued by the U.S. and those dishonest forces following the U.S., and safeguard the sovereignty of the country and the nation.
    The UN Security Council resolution on expanding sanctions against the DPRK, which was adopted on the initiative of the U.S., represents the most dangerous phase of the hostile policy toward the DPRK.

Under the prevailing situation, the army and people of the DPRK will turn out in an all-out action to defend its sovereignty which is more precious than their own lives and frustrate the moves of the U.S. and its allies to isolate and stifle the DPRK.

We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival.

The world will clearly see how the army and people of the DPRK punish all kinds of hostile forces and emerge as a final victor while following the just road of defending its sovereignty, convinced of the justice of its cause.”

Google Chief’s Teenage Daughter Blog Puts AP North Korea News Bureau to Shame: A Comparative Analysis

21 Jan

Amateur Journalism of Teenage Daughter of Google Chief Puts AP North Korea Reporting to Shame: A Comparative Analysis

Exactly one year ago, the Associated Press was granted permission to open a news bureau in North Korea, becoming the first western media agency to set up an official operation, providing what was to be a major propaganda coup for the repressive Pyongyang regime and what has evolved into an equally major blow to the reputation of, and an embarrassment for, the  AP.

On January  10, while Google chief Eric Schmidt and his delegation were in North Korea engaging in a very secretive and odd mission of which they refused to offer any substantive comments on their objectives, accomplishment or purpose, Associated Press  vice president  John Daniszewski  told the Voice of America that the AP Pyongyang bureau was not subject to state censorship and strictly follows the AP standards and rules used to produce the same stories in its global network  of bureaus that make it the largest media organization in the world.

Why then did an amateur teenage college student accompanying her father on the same Google trip deliver a knockout blow in her blog posting of the high profile top world story, putting to shame with substance, detail,  quotations from key participants, color, and written presentation the entire AP Korea coverage, despite the AP Pyongyang Bureau Chief, Ms Jean H. Lee being physically present at every event of the 4 day visit, even accompanying the official delegation on the airplane from Beijing?

But what Ms. Jean H. Lee, the AP Pyongyang Bureau Chief, the AP management, the North Korean government, Governor Richardson, and Ms. Sophie Schmidt’s own father, Google head Eric Schmidt, apparently didn’t realize was they had a stealth citizen journalist who had wangled her way on to the trip as a member of the delegation—Google head’s 19 year old daughter, college student Sophie Schmidt.

On January 3, AP Pyongyang bureau chief Jean H. Lee—reporting from Seoul not incidentally—released a story that AP headlined “APNewsBreak: Google exec chairman to visit NKorea” which led with the sentence “Google’s executive chairman is preparing to travel to one of the last frontiers of cyberspace: North Korea.”

The story went on to contend that “North Korea is in the midst of what leader Kim Jong Un called a modern-day “industrial revolution” in a New Year’s Day speech to the nation Monday. He is pushing science and technology as a path to economic development for the impoverished country, aiming for computers in every school and digitized machinery in every factory. However, giving citizens open access to the Internet has not been part of the North’s strategy. While some North Koreans can access a domestic Intranet service, very few have clearance to freely surf the World Wide Web.”

The AP story concluded saying “Last year, a group of North Koreans even visited Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. And government-affiliated agencies already use at least one Google product to get state propaganda out to the world: YouTube.”

What was not mentioned in the story was that a Korean American broker who makes his living taking money from wealthy corporations and officials to be a fixer to arrange access to the North Korean government, was not only the source of her story, but was paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Associated Press over a period of years to broker the agreement that allowed AP to open the Pyongyang Bureau in the first place. Mr. Tony Nam Chung was also on the delegation, who the AP referred to simply as an “Asian expert.”

Let’s compare the reporting of the teenager, Sophie Schmidt and that of the AP bureau chief, Jean H Lee, own dispatches, both having witnessed exactly the same events, met the same players, and analyzed the significance of the newsworthiness of the high powered delegation that grabbed world headlines for days.

Having the only western bureau of a press organization in Pyongyang has its perks. Ms Lee was the only journalist given a visa to accompany the Google delegation on the flight from Beijing to Pyongyang.

The delegation left Beijing airport where a scrum or reporters managed to get the only on the record comments of substance from delegation leaders, former U.S. politician Bill Richardson and Google head Eric Schmidt.

On that day, Jan 7, upon arrival in Pyongyang, AP Pyongyang Bureau chief Jean H. Lee tweeted “Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean We’re here. #Google executive chairman arrives in #NorthKorea http://bo.st/TG57Di”

Another AP official tweeted “Were they on same flight as @newsjean & @dguttenfelder? MT “@AP: BREAKING: Google executive arrives in NKorea on controversial trip”

Lee tweets in reply: “Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean @adamjdean @dguttenfelder @AP Indeed. Last photo posted was of Schmidt on left, Richardson on right on Air China.”

Here is the AP picture taken by Lee on the airplane and the AP picture released on arrival at Pyongyang’s Sunan airport:

AP Korea Bureau Chief Tweets Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean @adamjdean @dguttenfelder @AP Indeed. Last photo posted is of Schmidt on left, Richardson on right on Air China.”

AP Korea Bureau Chief Tweets Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean @adamjdean @dguttenfelder @AP Indeed. Last photo posted is of Schmidt on left, Richardson on right on Air China.”

AP’s  January 7 story on the arrival in North Korea was titled “ Google big arrives in North Korea” datelined PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP), and written by Ms. Lee. The lead sentence was “The Google chairman wants a first-hand look at North Korea’s economy and social media” adding that “Schmidt, a staunch proponent of Internet connectivity and openness, is expected to make a donation during the visit” and that “Computer and cell phone use is gaining ground in North Korea’s larger cities. However, most North Koreans only have access to a domestic Intranet system, not the World Wide Web. For North Koreans, Internet use is still strictly regulated and allowed only with approval.”

And here is excerpts from the blog of the untrained teenage college student, Mrs. Schmidt, titled “It might not get weirder than this”:

It starts with a Disclaimer: I am a North Korea amateur and can only share what it’s like to be part of a NK-bound delegation. Straightforward trip report here: no discussion of meeting details or intentions–just some observations.”

“This was how it started: A Chinese media pack saw us off at Beijing Airport. “Gov” is unfazed, a pro. The level of media attention prior to the trip raised the stakes and definitely affected the calculations on both sides.

We flew Air China in, on a full flight.  Mostly Chinese businessmen, Western NGO types and assorted diplomats, all looking appropriately battle-hardened.  An Ethiopian attaché assured me there was “never a dull moment” in the hermit kingdom.”

Google delegation at Beijing airport preparing to depart fro Pyongyang

Google delegation at Beijing airport preparing to depart fro Pyongyang

Schmidt accompanied her comments with a photo of the North Korean Custom form that both she, her dad, and the AP’s Ms Jean Lee filled out upon arrival in Pyongyang, with the comment “Do note #1 and #6: leave your “killing device” and “publishing’s of all kinds” at home.  Got it. We carried a ton of cash (USD) since that was the only way to pay for anything.”

"My favorite form. Do note #1 and #6: leave your "killing device" and "publishings of all kinds" at home.  Got it."

“My favorite form.
Do note #1 and #6: leave your “killing device” and “publishing’s of all kinds” at home. Got it.”

She then detailed the ambiance of their arrival.“An aside: For a country that banned religion, and has sent thousands of practicing Christians to prison camps, the Christmas trees were rather incongruous. When asked, Minder 1 chuckled and offered, “New Year’s trees?” We picked up visas at the check-in desk: slips of paper with our pictures taped on, which they then took back upon arrival at Pyongyang.  Deprived of our deserved passport stamps, we soldiered on.

Sophie Schmidt's North Korean ID card

Sophie Schmidt’s North Korean ID card

Our flight was the only one coming into Pyongyang that day. Small press swarm upon arrival, including media from NK, China and the AP, who have a small bureau in Pyongyang. We also met our handlers, two men from the Foreign Ministry, whom we gave code name. As minders go, they were alright.  They were affable, but would frequently give noncommittal answers to our questions…or just not answer us at all. I’d like to think they grew a little fond of us, though realistically, they were probably just as happy to see the back of us as we were to leave.”

Google delegation arrives at Pyongyang

Google delegation arrives at Pyongyang

Ms Schmidt then added what it would seem to be a crucial question on the delegation of the head of a company whose name is synonymous with the global borderless information age and free flow of information on a visit to the world’s most censored country ranked dead last on every list of world nations on issues of free press and free speech. “It was a nine-person delegation in total. We left our phones and laptops behind in China, since we were warned they’d be confiscated in NK, and probably infected with lord knows what malware.”

GOOGLE GROUP SHOT

Ms. Schmidt then made sure to include what is universally confirmed pertinent background context: “Ordinary North Koreans live in a near-total information bubble, without any true frame of reference.  I can’t think of any reaction to that except absolute sympathy.  My understanding is that North Koreans are taught to believe they are lucky to be in North Korea, so why would they ever want to leave?  They’re hostages in their own country, without any real consciousness of it.  And the opacity of the country’s inner workings–down to the basics of its economy–further serves to reinforce the state’s control. The best description we could come up with: it’s like The Truman Show, at country scale. “

She inserted a caveat for the readers benefit and in the interests of full disclosure—something starkly absent from all the Associated Press reporting: #1 Caveat: It’s impossible to know how much we can extrapolate from what we saw in Pyongyang to what the DPRK is really like.  Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments.  We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders (2, so one can mind the other). The longer I think about what we saw and heard, the less sure I am about what any of it actually meant.”

GOOGLE AT E LIBRARY

Ms Schmidt then offered a portrait of the city and what she saw—which was limited to the hotel and being chauffeured to pre staged events and places She gave an overview of the arrangements of which they were to operate under during the visit, a portrayal that is consistent with the accounts of virtually every foreign visitor to the DPRK, and certainly every professional journalist: “We were told well ahead of time to assume that everything was bugged: phones, cars, rooms, meetings, restaurants and who knows what else.  I looked for cameras in the room but came up short. But then, why bother with cameras when you have minders? After a day in frigid Pyongyang, I was just thankful it was warm. Long, empty hallways. My father’s reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open. Since we didn’t have cell phones or alarm clocks,  the question of how we’d wake up on time in the morning was legitimate.  One person suggested announcing  “I’m awake” to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you.”

"Long, empty hallways. My father's reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open."

“Long, empty hallways. My father’s reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open.”

Long, empty hallways. My father’s reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open.

As for the ambiance of the accommodations, the teenager wrote: “We stayed at a guesthouse a few kilometers from Pyongyang that was really like a private hotel, in that we were the only guests.  Food overall? Solidly decent.  Like Korean food, only with less pizzazz and more corn (?). Inside, the place was a bizarre mix of marble grandeur and what passed for chic in North Korea in the 1970s.

Photographs of the Hotel:

Hotel Lobby

Hotel Lobby

Main lobby (above): Grecian statues, pirate ship appliqué, TV playing patriotic broadcasts.

In case you were wondering where tacky fake floral arrangements went when they went out of style: they're all in North Korea. (Ditto for gaudy light fixtures.)

In case you were wondering where tacky fake floral arrangements went when they went out of style: they’re all in North Korea. (Ditto for gaudy light fixtures.)

In case you were wondering where tacky fake floral arrangements went when they went out of style: they’re all in North Korea. (Ditto for gaudy light fixtures.)

And those beds? Hard as a rock.  Very little in North Korea, it seemed to us, was built to be inviting. Not a rug in the place.

And those beds? Hard as a rock. Very little in North Korea, it seemed to us, was built to be inviting. Not a rug in the place.

Three channels on the TVs: CNN International, dubbed-over USSR-era films, and the DPRK channel, which was by far the most entertaining.  My tolerance level for videos of Kim Jong Un in crowds turns out to be remarkably high.

Ms Schmidt then described the ambiance of the city of Pyongyang that put the AP’s Jean Lee to shame: “You could almost forget you were in North Korea in this city, until you noticed little things, like the lack of commercial storefronts. No street-level commerce, either. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t seen any plastic bags yet until I saw one person with a bag of apples and thought it looked out of place. Our trip coincided with the “Respected Leader” Kim Jong Un’s birthday. On that day, the little stalls that dotted the city and sold small sundries had long lines as they distributed treats.”

On the requisite tour to pay homage to the Great Leader at the palace, she writes:“Large, gilded gates outside the Palace. Heavily guarded, military types everywhere. This country has the 4th largest standing army in the world  (1.4 million)  and it's the size of Pennsylvania.

On the requisite tour to pay homage to the Great Leader at the palace, she writes:“Large, gilded gates outside the Palace. Heavily guarded, military types everywhere. This country has the 4th largest standing army in the world (1.4 million) and it’s the size of Pennsylvania.

 We weren’t allowed to bring anything in–no coats, gloves, cameras, hats, etc. (“No contents!”) We entered a series of tunnels with those moving-walkways you find in airports, which we slowly rode for probably 20-30 minutes.  The walls were lined with portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung looking at things, which turn out to be rather important: Because the Leaders are god-like figures, when one provides “on-site guidance” (which they always can, because they are experts in all things) it’s like a benediction.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist's chair (insert "on-site guidance" joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist’s chair (insert “on-site guidance” joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

Behind us in line were at least 600 North Korean soldiers of various rank, for whom this was a solemn occasion and precious opportunity–they may be allowed to visit once more in their lives.

On the ubiquitous lectures that every visitor to Pyongyang is mid numbingly subjected to, including the AP chief of Korea news coverage, are all too familiar, Sophie Schmidt observes: “And open with a familiar speech: It was only due to the instruction/vision/guidance of Our Marshall/the Respected Leader/ Awesome-O wunderkid Kim Jong Un that we were able to successfully __________ (insert achievement here: launch a ballistic rocket, build complicated computer software, negotiate around US sanctions, etc.). 

Reminded me of the “We’re Not Worthy” bit from Wayne’s World. Just another example of the reality distortion field we routinely encountered in North Korea, just frequently enough to remind us how irrational the whole system really is.”

And Sophie went on to describe with a keen eye for detail and color the transportation system: “Metro Station. Rather less grand than the mausoleum, but also our best shot at seeing a non-staged group of ordinary North Koreans. The lines are probably twice as deep in the ground as an ordinary city’s, designed to withstand bombing raids. Cars are old but clean. Portraits of the Leaders? Check. Revolutionary music? Check. In the station, they had the day’s newspapers on display; there are four papers and all are state-run. In a fantastic bit of timing, as we exited the train, the station’s power cut out (above right).  The commuters around us immediately pulled out flashlights, which they presumably carry all the time.  Can’t win ’em all, minders.”

In a fantastic bit of timing, as we exited the train, the station's power cut out (above right).  The commuters around us immediately pulled out flashlights, which they presumably carry all the time.  Can't win 'em all, minders.

In a fantastic bit of timing, as we exited the train, the station’s power cut out (above right). The commuters around us immediately pulled out flashlights, which they presumably carry all the time. Can’t win ’em all, minders.

The AP’s Jean Lee, was also at the hotel, and her sole contribution on the ambience was tweeting from her twitter account: Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean “Snacks for sale at #NKorean hotel outside Pyongyang where #Google delegation stayed this week. @apklug http://twitpic.com/bu17ia” and posting this photograph:

Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean “Snacks for sale at #NKorean hotel outside AP picture of range of food available: "Pyongyang where #Google delegation stayed this week."

Jean H. Lee ‏@newsjean “Snacks for sale at #NKorean hotel outside AP picture of range of food available: “Pyongyang where #Google delegation stayed this week.”

It would seem quite apparent that the account of Ms. Schmidt, the college teenager, of the Google delegation’s first day was considerably more substantive, informative, detailed, without bias, fear of repercussions from Pyongyang government thugs and colorful than that of the Associated Press journalist in charge of the world’s biggest news organization’s Korea coverage.

Then we move on to day two, the highlight of the world headline grabbing delegation’s visit to Pyongyang—their visit to the computer center and universities where North Korean’s allegedly have access to use computers and, according to the AP, surf the internet.

Here is the AP report in its entirety:

“Google exec gets look at NKoreans using Internet.”

By JEAN H. LEE, Associated Press – Jan 8, 2013

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Students at North Korea’s premier university showed Google’s executive chairman how they look for information online: They Google it.

But surfing the Internet that way is the privilege of only a very few in North Korea, whose authoritarian government imposes strict limits on access to the World Wide Web.

Google’s Eric Schmidt got a first look at North Korea’s limited Internet usage when an American delegation he and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson are leading visited a computer lab Tuesday at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Other members of the delegation on the unusual four-day trip include Schmidt’s daughter, Sophie, and Jared Cohen, director of the Google Ideas think tank.

Google looks at NK computers

Google looks at NK computers

Schmidt and Cohen chatted with students working on HP desktop computers at an “e-library” at the university named after North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. One student showed Schmidt how he accesses reading materials from Cornell University online on a computer with a red tag denoting it as a gift from Kim Jong Il.

“He’s actually going to a Cornell site,” Schmidt told Richardson after peering at the URL.

Cohen asked a student how he searches for information online. The student clicked on Google — “That’s where I work!” Cohen said — and then asked to be able to type in his own search: “New York City.” Cohen clicked on a Wikipedia page for the city, pointing at a photo and telling the student, “That’s where I live.”

Google executive Jared Cohen surfs the internet in Pyongynag

Google executive Jared Cohen surfs the internet in Pyongynag

Kim Su Hyang, a librarian, said students at Kim Il Sung University have had Internet access since the laboratory opened in April 2010. School officials said the library is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, even when school is not in session, like Tuesday.

While university students at Kim Chaek University of Science and Technology and the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology also have carefully monitored Internet access — and are under strict instructions to access only educational materials — most North Koreans have never surfed the Web.

Computers at Pyongyang’s main library at the Grand People’s Study house are linked to a domestic Intranet service that allows them to read state-run media online and access a trove of reading materials culled by North Korean officials. North Koreans with computers at home can also sign up for the Intranet service.

google computer room

google computer room

But access to the World Wide Web is extremely rare and often is limited to those with clearance to get on the Internet.

At Kim Chaek University, instructors and students wishing to use the Internet must register first for permission and submit an application with their requests for research online, Ryu Sun Ryol, head of the e-library, said.

But he said it is only a matter of time before Internet use becomes widespread.

“We will start having access to the Internet soon,” he said in an interview last month. He said North Korea is in the midst of a major push to expand computer use in every classroom and workplace.

New red banners promoting slogans drawn from Kim’s speech line Pyongyang’s snowy streets, and North Koreans are still cramming to study the lengthy speech. It was the first time in 19 years for North Koreans to hear their leader give a New Year’s Day speech. During the rule of late leader Kim Jong Il, state policy was distributed through North Korea’s three main newspapers.

There was a festive air in Pyongyang for another reason: Kim Jong Un’s birthday. Though Jan. 8 is not recognized as a national holiday, like the birthdays of his father and grandfather, and his official birth date has not been announced, North Koreans acknowledged that it was their leader’s birthday Tuesday.

Waitresses at the downtown Koryo Hotel dressed up in sparkly traditional Korean dresses and decorated the lobby with balloons.

Follow AP’s bureau chief for Pyongyang and Seoul on Twitter at twitter.com/newsjean.

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Now here is where the teenage Ms Schmidt, who wrote with the tone of anyone familiar with teenage girls living in a free society, who (and I totally guessing here) was probably loudly chewing gum during the events, excels: reporting on the actual details and state of North Korea’s digital capabilities and future.

First Ms Schmidt posted the same AP photograph but included her own caption: She posted a picture of  North Koreans using computers which was broadcast worldwide by the Associated Press but given absolutely no explanatory commentary, leaving readers wondering whether these were actually North Koreans using the internet, a capability strictly banned in the country.

She captioned the photograph:

"“The Kim Il Sung University e-Library, or as I like to call it, the e-Potemkin Village”

““The Kim Il Sung University e-Library, or as I like to call it, the e-Potemkin Village”

She offered an insert box to the main bar story that any professional journalist knows as crucial to packaging a story to make it more readable and keep the news consumers attention, not to mention reinforce the stories credibility:

Top Level Take-aways:

1. Go to North Korea if you can. It is very, very strange.

2. If it is January, disregard the above. It is very, very cold.

3. Nothing I’d read or heard beforehand really prepared me for what we saw.

I can’t express how cold it was. Maybe 10-15 degrees F in the sunshine, not including wind chill.  The cold was compounded by the fact that none of the buildings we visited were heated, which meant hour-long tours in cavernous, 30-degree indoor environments. It is quite extraordinary to have the Honored Guest Experience in such conditions: they’re proudly showing you their latest technology or best library, and you can see your breath. A clue to how much is really in their control.”

Sophie Schmidt then wrote a story of the events that, in comparison, made the AP’s Jean Lee look like, well, a North Korean state propagandist:

“Inside, we were shown through study rooms like the one above, maybe 60 people diligently at desks.  Were they bussed in for our benefit? Were any of them actually reading? All I know is that it. was. freezing.”

“Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up. One problem: No one was actually doing anything.  A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care?  Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.  When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.”

“Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up. One problem: No one was actually doing anything. A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care? Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home. When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.”

She continued with more crucial first hand detail, saying “Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up. One problem: No one was actually doing anything.  A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in–a noisy bunch, with media in tow–not one of them looked up from their desks.  Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.  Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care?  Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.  When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.”

Then the teenage Ms. Schmidt offered what neither her father or the Associated Press were willing to regarding the technical realities of North Korea in the information age.

“On the tech front: Everything that is accessible is accessible only in special tiers. Their mobile network, Koryolink, has between 1-2 million subscribers. No data service, but international calls were possible on the phones we rented. Realistically, even basic service is prohibitively expensive, much like every other consumption good (fuel, cars, etc.). The officials we interacted with, and a fair number of people we saw in Pyongyang, had mobiles (but not smart phones). North Korea has a national intranet, a walled garden of scrubbed content taken from the real Internet.  Our understanding is that some university students have access to this.  On tour at the Korea Computer Center (a deranged version of the Consumer Electronics Show), they demo’d their latest invention: a tablet, running on Android that had access to the real Internet.  Whether anyone, beyond very select students, high-ranking officials or occasional American delegation tourists, actually gets to use it is unknowable.  We also saw virtual-reality software, video chat platform, musical composition software (?) and other random stuff.” 

“What’s so odd about the whole thing is that no one in North Korea can even hope to afford the things they showed us. And it’s not like they’re going to export this technology.  They’re building products for a market that doesn’t exist.”  

 

“Those in the know are savvier than you’d expect. Exhibit A: Eric fielded questions like, “When is the next version of Android coming out?”and “Can you help us with e-Settlement so that we can put North Korean apps on Android Market?”  Answers: soon, and No, silly North Koreans, you’re under international bank sanctions.”

“They seemed to acknowledge that connectivity is coming, and that they can’t hope to keep it out.  Indeed, some seemed to understand that it’s only with connectivity that their country has a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping up with the 21st century. But we’ll have to wait and see what direction they choose to take.”

 "We can leave, really?  Thank you, Kim Jung-un. No, really, thank him, because it was only with his expert instruction and inspirational vision that I was able to make this slideshow."


“We can leave, really? Thank you, Kim Jung-un. No, really, thank him, because it was only with his expert instruction and inspirational vision that I was able to make this slideshow.”

The Sophie posts a picture of herself captioned: We can leave, really?”

“No, really, thank him, because it was only with his expert instruction and inspirational vision that I was able to make this slideshow.

The end.”

On January 16. 2012, the official Korean Central News Agency announced “AP Pyongyang Bureau Opens” located within the offices of central nervous system of the considerable North Korean Propaganda machine, the KCNA. “Present there were the delegation of the Associated Press headed by its President and CEO Thomas Curley” adding “Thomas said the opening of the bureau would bring hundreds of millions of people around the world the cultural understanding and access to stories of political and economic development of the DPRK” adding “He has great expectations for good journalism, he said, adding this is a great opportunity to just understand and report.”

Prior to January 2012, it took The Associated Press almost a year to finalize terms to open a full-time news bureau in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang during which time AP head Curley supplicated himself to the leaders of arguably the most repressive government on the planet, coming in last 9 out of the last 10 years in world government rankings of “Enemies of Press Freedom by the independent Reporters Without Borders. On March 8. 2011, KCNA ran an article headlined “Americans Pay Homage to Kim Il Sung” which said in its entirety: “Thomas Curley, president of the Associated Press of the United States, and his party visited the statue of President Kim Il Sung on Mansu Hill on Tuesday. The guests laid bouquets before the statue and paid homage to the President.” Three days later, on March 11, 2011, KCNA reported “General Secretary Kim Jong Il received a gift from Thomas Curley, president and chief executive officer of the Associated Press of the United States on a visit to the DPRK. It was handed to an official concerned on Friday by Thomas Curley.”

The AP news executives had years of direct experience to understand just what the consequences, compromises, capabilities and professional ethical terms were of cutting a deal to allow for access to North Korea. The Television branch of the Associated Press has had a bureau in Pyongyang since 2006. The head of Associated Press Television News behaved similarly in selling the integrity of the news operation in exchange for permission to access the state controlled by a government that regularly ranks dead last, in comparative indexes of nations on human rights, religious freedom, economic freedom, press freedom, and economic health.

On March 22, 2002 KCNA ran a story headlined “Performance “Arirang” praised”, referring to their mass performance propaganda games where hundreds of thousands perform flawless robotic paeans to the Kim Family dynastic dictatorship. “Foreigners were deeply impressed to watch the all-round rehearsal of the mass gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang”. Nigel Baker, director of content of the London bureau of the Associated Press Television News, said that all scenes of the performance were wonderful, adding that it is hard to enjoy such show elsewhere.  It is something unbelievable that human beings can provide such huge and beautiful background scenes, he noted, calling on the people of all countries to come and see the performance. “

When the AP opened its bureau in January 2012, located inside the building of the state-run news agency, they were assigned by the Pyongyang regime a North Korean “reporter” and “photographer”,  who they AP caricaturized as “under the supervision of two Americans who will make frequent trips to Pyongyang.” It is widely accepted that both are, in fact, trained agents of the North Korean intelligence and propaganda services.

The head of the Korea Central News Agency, Kim Pyong Ho, was quoted at the ceremony as saying the AP promised to report on North Korea “with fairness, balance and accuracy.”

The AP’s Executive editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking from Pyongyang,  assured world news consumers that the AP would operate under the same standards and practices as it did at all its bureaus worldwide. “There’s not a government that we cover that doesn’t occasionally read a story or look at a picture or a piece of video and have an opinion about it, that they may not like it,” she said. “We have those conversations all the time and I don’t expect they’ll be any different here when they occur.”

The AP has refused to release what the terms of their agreement to open the bureau were and have adamantly refused to allow their management or reporters to speak on the record regarding the operations and the conditions and restrictions they work under in the year since the opening ceremony.

In a September interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, the Pyongyang AP bureau chief, Jean H Lee,  offered a few answers to a series of remarkably softball questions. The CJR, in a question and answer format, offered a very brief overview saying that the AP was “the first international, independent journalism agency with a full-time, full-format bureau in the North Korean capital. At the time, the AP refused many requests for interviews with the journalists involved to give them time to get established. Now, seven months on, Lee tells CJR about reporting from a country where visiting international journalists are usually required to relinquish their cell phones, work without Internet access, and submit to constant surveillance.”

CJR asked “How have things changed since the bureau opened in January?” to which Lee responded “We’ve been in North Korea for seven months now, through the challenging early stages of the move. At the moment we’re still concentrating on building the operation, training local staff and building a network in North Korea. I visited here a dozen times in the last two years, especially leading up to January, and I have had incredible insight into how things work here. But it is a very difficult place to work.”

CJR:What are the biggest challenges?”

Jean Lee: There are very strict rules for foreign visitors in North Korea, which includes journalists. The rules require all cell phones to be left at the airport, and foreign visitors must be accompanied by a host at all times. I can’t think of another place in the world where that is the case. You can’t even leave your hotel to go for a walk. There is no interacting with locals unless you’re in the presence of a North Korean. Many journalists have previously entered the country on the invitation of the foreign ministry or by pretending to be an academic or a tourist, but that can have implications for their companies if they get caught. The issue with cell phones is a big one—it’s very difficult to get a cell phone here, and there isn’t much Internet access. Simple things like filing become an issue for journalists.”

CJR:Do you feel like you’re being watched?”

Jean Lee: “I operate under the assumption that everything I say, everything I write, everything I do is being recorded.”

CJR: “You share an office with the Korean Central News Agency, which is state-run. How much do you work with them on stories?”

Jean Lee:We do work with the local news. It’s quite amazing to be included in the local press corps with the local media, and to be invited to state press conferences alongside them. It’s a real coup to be the first Western news organization there.”

CJR: “Is there any resistance to training North Korean journalists to work for the AP?”

Jean Lee: “There is no resistance. They are keen to learn how Western journalism works, and they see it as an opportunity to practice their English. I’ve also seen them adopt Western reporting techniques over the last year. They take what they need and they try and learn from it. It’s really important to build these relationships. North Korea is a closed country and they are suspicious of outsiders, so it takes time. There is quite a lot of training involved!”

CJR:Why did the AP get the gig?”

Jean Lee: “Our TV office did the hard work when they opened a bureau here in 2006. We went in as their partner, but it is clear to the North Korean regime that we are one company. Aside from that, there are two main reasons: firstly, my colleagues and I have been working here for years, so we have a certain longevity. Secondly, AP is the largest news organization in the world. We are completely independent and funded by international subscribers. If the regime wanted to make a political statement about the direction it is heading, this is it. North Korea is taking a big risk in working with us. Technically the US and North Korea are still at war—to reach out to an American company goes against decades of policy. Hopefully we can pave the way for other media.”

Compare AP chief Korea correspondent’s comments to teenage cub reporter Schmidt:

Schmidt: “Trucks equipped with loudspeakers roam the streets. “For the propaganda, “Minder 2 told me, with a tone that suggested You idiot.”

Schmidt: : “Palace of the Sun, Kim Il Sung’s former office and now the national mausoleum where Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s embalmed bodies lie in state.  When a government meeting was cancelled, they decided to let us visit to pay respects (a rare honor). I can barely describe how strange an experience it was. The mausoleum part had all the dramatic doom and gloom you can imagine: red-lit marble halls, severe-looking guards, sweeping, lamenting orchestral music.  The soldiers would line up in threes at each side of the bodies, and bow deeply.  Stone-faced. Also lying in state: the late Leaders’ cars, train compartments and even a yacht, all preserved in their former glory.  Even Kim Jong Il’s platform shoes were on display.  I was delighted to learn that he and I shared a taste in laptops: 15” Macbook Pro.  We weren’t allowed to bring anything in–no coats, gloves, cameras, hats, etc. (“No contents!”) We entered a series of tunnels with those moving-walkways you find in airports, which we slowly rode for probably 20-30 minutes.  The walls were lined with portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung looking at things, which turn out to be rather important: Because the Leaders are god-like figures, when one provides “on-site guidance” (which they always can, because they are experts in all things) it’s like a benediction.”

Schmidt: “Also on our flight out? The North Korean national women’s soccer team. 20 little North Korean women in tracksuits and sneakers, and presumably no intention to defect.

Here’s a North Korea joke:

Q: Did these athletes play indoor or outdoor soccer?

A: Trick question. They have no heat, so what’s the difference?”

Schmidt: “We heard just one song that wasn’t patriotic North Korean music while in the country, first in a promotional video for the e-Potemkin village and again over the speakers on our return flight on the national airline, Air Koryo.  It was a remastered version of The Cranberries’ “Dreams.”  It’s cool, I’m sure they secured the rights first.”


Immediately after the departure of the Google delegation and their stealth citizen reporter, Sophie Schmidt, AP Vice President Daniszewski arrived to celebrate the one year anniversary of AP’s presence in Pyongyang. Upon his departure he admitted to Yonhap news that the AP’s American Pyongyang bureau chief, Jean H. Lee, “hasn’t had good luck getting out of Pyongyang and doing stories. When we want to cover a story, we have to request interviews, request permissions to go to places either to government offices involved or KCNA, which arrange things,” he said.

AP’s Pyongyang bureau is located in the offices of the North Korean official state propaganda Korean Central News Agency, and employees two North Korean reporters handpicked by the Pyongyang regime, which the AP described as “When the AP opened its bureau in January 2012, located inside the building of the state-run news agency, they were assigned by the Pyongyang regime a North Korean “reporter” and “photographer”,  who they AP caricaturized as “under the supervision of two Americans who will make frequent trips to Pyongyang.”

The head of the Korea Central News Agency, Kim Pyong Ho, was quoted at the ceremony as saying the AP promised to report on North Korea “with fairness, balance and accuracy.”

The AP’s Executive editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking from Pyongyang,  assured world news consumers that the AP would operate under the same standards and practices as it did at all its bureaus worldwide. “There’s not a government that we cover that doesn’t occasionally read a story or look at a picture or a piece of video and have an opinion about it, that they may not like it,” she said. “We have those conversations all the time and I don’t expect they’ll be any different here when they occur.”

The AP has refused to release what the terms of their agreement top open the bureau were and have adamantly refused to allow their management or reporters to speak on the record regarding the operations and the conditions and restrictions they work under in the year since the opening ceremony.

The AP’s Executive editor Kathleen Carroll, speaking from Pyongyang,  assured world news consumers that the AP would operate under the same standards and practices as it did at all its bureaus worldwide. “There’s not a government that we cover that doesn’t occasionally read a story or look at a picture or a piece of video and have an opinion about it, that they may not like it,” she said. “We have those conversations all the time and I don’t expect they’ll be any different here when they occur.”

The AP has refused to release what the terms of their agreement top open the bureau were and have adamantly refused to allow their management or reporters to speak on the record regarding the operations and the conditions and restrictions they work under in the year since the opening ceremony.

"“This

AP Vice President Daniszewski said last week North Korea appears to be opening up to the West, citing airing foreign television programs.  “Our correspondent (Jean Lee) mentioned that there are some new TV shows, some interesting films like ‘Madagascar,'” he said, referring to the American cartoon film. This year “We want to see more of the country and talk more with the people.”

I would suggest that if the Associated Press wants to improve their abysmal reporting record to date on North Korea, they should consider closing down their bureau and contracting with youthful tourists at the Beijing airport arrival gate from Pyongyang , who are free of fear of upsetting the most egregious regime on earth responsible for obscene institutional abuses of the rights of their citizens and get away with it by bullying, not just governments, but apparently reporters into giving credibility to their Orwellian narrative in exchange for—well in exchange for apparently not much. Hire a teenager to write a blog of their experiences. They probably could use the cash and the Associated Press could certainly use the credibility to their news operations it has pathetically, cynically, and transparently caused entirely self-inflicted damage.

Teenage Daughter of Google Chief Spills The True Story on North Korea Visit: Puts to Shame Free Press, Dad, and U.S. Government

20 Jan

Teenage Daughter of Google Chief Spills The True Story on North Korea Visit: Puts to Shame Free Press, Dad, and U.S. Government

By Nate Thayer

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt may now regret inviting his 19 year old teenage daughter, Sophie Schmidt, along on his world headline grabbing, secretive trip to North Korea last week.

Sophie Schmidt was one of the nine members of the high powered delegation which included her dad, representing the world’s most prominent powerhouse, Google corporation, in the new internet age of borderless, free, uncensored flow of  information to the most restricted closed and censored society on earth. Other members included her dad, former U.S. presidential candidate, Ambassador to the United Nations and governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and other powerful but very tight lipped hi tech and government types.

Together they have revealed virtually nothing of the purpose, encounters, impressions, and success of the trip to North Korea.

Cartoon posted by hid daughter on blog post writing about her trip to North Korea

Cartoon posted by hid daughter on blog post writing about her trip to North Korea

Until teenager Sophie posted a startling frank, detailed, and revealing blog today, accompanied by typical American teenage bluntness and snarky, that blew away the powerful American mucky mucks scripted silence, revealing all the public interest really needed to know.

Now, really, was that so hard?

North Korean ID card of Sophie Schmidt, teenage daughter of Google chief

North Korean ID card of Sophie Schmidt, teenage daughter of Google chief

The quite entertaining and enticing young Ms Schmidt got right to the point.

Titled “It might not get weirder than this”, Sophie’s blog post began with the caveat “ Pro tip: Max browser window (for width), keep scrolling and blame Google Sites (and this two-column structure idea of mine) for limited functionality.  Proper slideshow at the end with larger-version photos. Apologies to folks with f’d up layouts” which was followed by a highlighted note before her incisive and insightful musing on the Google delegation 4 day visit began: “Disclaimer: I am a North Korea amateur and can only share what it’s like to be part of a NK-bound delegation. Straightforward trip report here: no discussion of meeting details or intentions–just some observations.”

She began with a photo of the North Korean Custom form to be filled out upon arrival in Pyongyang. “Do note #1 and #6: leave your “killing device” and “publishing’s of all kinds” at home.  Got it. We carried a ton of cash (USD) since that was the only way to pay for anything.”

 “Do note #1 and #6: leave your "killing device" and "publishing’s of all kinds" at home.  Got it." wrote Ms Schmidt

“Do note #1 and #6: leave your “killing device” and “publishing’s of all kinds” at home. Got it.” wrote Ms Schmidt

She then detailed the ambience of their surroundings. “We also met our handlers, two men from the Foreign Ministry, whom we gave code names. Unusually, both men had lived in the US, in addition to other countries, as embassy staffers…. How on earth do they reconcile the differences they see between their experience abroad and what they’d always been told?” adding “It was a nine-person delegation in total. We left our phones and laptops behind in China, since we were warned they’d be confiscated in NK, and probably infected with lord knows what malware.”

Ms Schmidt then offered a health warning on how much credibility her observations should be accorded: “#1 Caveat: It’s impossible to know how much we can extrapolate from what we saw in Pyongyang to what the DPRK is really like.  Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments.  We had zero interactions with non-state-approved North Koreans and were never far from our two minders (2, so one can mind the other).”

Ms Schmidt captioned thsi photo: "Excellent Caption Opportunity."

Ms Schmidt captioned thsi photo: “Excellent Caption Opportunity.”

Sophie then offered a meteorological assessment and advice for potential visitors who might want to visit the hermit Kingdom. “I can’t express how cold it was. Maybe 10-15 degrees F in the sunshine, not including wind chill.  The cold was compounded by the fact that none of the buildings we visited were heated, which meant hour-long tours in cavernous, 30-degree indoor environments. It is quite extraordinary to have the Honored Guest Experience in such conditions: they’re proudly showing you their latest technology or best library, and you can see your breath. A clue to how much is really in their control.”

The Ms. Schmidt blogged on a general impressionistic overview regarding the delegation representing the name which is synonymous with free and unfettered access to information: “Ordinary North Koreans live in a near-total information bubble, without any true frame of reference.  I can’t think of any reaction to that except absolute sympathy.  My understanding is that North Koreans are taught to believe they are lucky to be in North Korea, so why would they ever want to leave?  They’re hostages in their own country, without any real consciousness of it.  And the opacity of the country’s inner workings–down to the basics of its economy–further serves to reinforce the state’s control. The best description we could come up with: it’s like The Truman Show, at country scale. “

She then offered a food review .

“We stayed at a guesthouse a few kilometers from Pyongyang that was really like a private hotel, in that we were the only guests.  Food overall? Solidly decent.  Like Korean food, only with less pizzazz and more corn (?).”

This was followed by rating the hotel accommodations:

“We were told well ahead of time to assume that everything was bugged: phones, cars, rooms, meetings, restaurants and who knows what else.  I looked for cameras in the room but came up short. But then, why bother with cameras when you have minders? After a day in frigid Pyongyang, I was just thankful it was warm. Long, empty hallways. My father’s reaction to staying in a bugged luxury socialist guesthouse was to simply leave his door open. Since we didn’t have cell phones or alarm clocks,  the question of how we’d wake up on time in the morning was legitimate.  One person suggested announcing  “I’m awake” to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you.”

 

Sophie Schmidt in Pyongyang as a member of her Dad's high powered delegation

Sophie Schmidt in Pyongyang as a member of her Dad’s high powered delegation

Ms Schmidt followed this with a traffic report and an assessment of the local culture: “People there walk very long distances (miles and miles) in sub-zero temperatures, often in the middle of the road.  (Not a problem because there are almost no cars outside the city center.) Conclusion: these people are really, really tough.”

The teenage daughter of the Google chief executive then offered the most empirical and honest observations of the highlight of the world headline grabbing delegation’s visit to Pyongyang—their visit to where North Korean’s access computers and, allegedly, surf the internet.

She posted a picture of  North Koreans using computers which was broadcast worldwide by the Associated Press but given absolutely no explanatory commentary, leaving readers wondering whether these were actually North Koreans using the internet, a capability strictly banned in the country.

She captioned the photograph: “The Kim Il Sung University e-Library, or as I like to call it, the e-Potemkin Village” and then posted this observation below: “Inside, we were shown through study rooms like the one above, maybe 60 people diligently at desks.  Were they bussed in for our benefit? Were any of them actually reading? All I know is that it. was. freezing.”

The North Korean Compuer capabilties as portrayed to the Google delegation and described by eyewitness 19 year old daughter of Google Chief

The North Korean Compuer capabilties as portrayed to the Google delegation and described by eyewitness 19 year old daughter of Google Chief

She continued with more crucial first hand detail, saying “Looks great, right? All this activity, all those monitors. Probably 90 desks in the room, all manned, with an identical scene one floor up. One problem: No one was actually doing anything.  A few scrolled or clicked, but the rest just stared. More disturbing: when our group walked in–a noisy bunch, with media in tow–not one of them looked up from their desks.  Not a head turn, no eye contact, no reaction to stimuli. They might as well have been figurines.  Of all the stops we made, the e-Potemkin Village was among the more unsettling. We knew nothing about what we were seeing, even as it was in front of us. Were they really students? Did our handlers honestly think we bought it? Did they even care?  Photo op and tour completed, maybe they dismantled the whole set and went home.  When one of our group went to peek back into the room, a man abruptly closed the door ahead of him and told him to move along.”

Then the teenage Ms. Schmidt offered what neither her father or the Associated Press were willing to regarding the technical realities of North Korea in the information age.

“On the tech front: Everything that is accessible is accessible only in special tiers. Their mobile network, Koryolink, has between 1-2 million subscribers. No data service, but international calls were possible on the phones we rented. Realistically, even basic service is prohibitively expensive, much like every other consumption good (fuel, cars, etc.). The officials we interacted with, and a fair number of people we saw in Pyongyang, had mobiles (but not smart phones). North Korea has a national intranet, a walled garden of scrubbed content taken from the real Internet.  Our understanding is that some university students have access to this.  On tour at the Korea Computer Center (a deranged version of the Consumer Electronics Show), they demo’d their latest invention: a tablet, running on Android that had access to the real Internet.  Whether anyone, beyond very select students, high-ranking officials or occasional American delegation tourists, actually gets to use it is unknowable.  We also saw virtual-reality software, video chat platform, musical composition software (?) and other random stuff.”

“What’s so odd about the whole thing is that no one in North Korea can even hope to afford the things they showed us. And it’s not like they’re going to export this technology.  They’re building products for a market that doesn’t exist.”

“Those in the know are savvier than you’d expect. Exhibit A: Eric fielded questions like, “When is the next version of Android coming out?”and “Can you help us with e-Settlement so that we can put North Korean apps on Android Market?”  Answers: soon, and No, silly North Koreans, you’re under international bank sanctions.”

Ms Schmidt concisely analyzed the trip with remarkable precision and savvy.  “They seemed to acknowledge that connectivity is coming, and that they can’t hope to keep it out.  Indeed, some seemed to understand that it’s only with connectivity that their country has a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping up with the 21st century. But we’ll have to wait and see what direction they choose to take.”

She then could not help herself by suppressing her innate teenage snarkiness by concluding her blog with the comment    “We can leave, really? Oh, thank Kim Jong Un!”

“No, really, thank him, because it was only with his expert instruction and inspirational vision that I was able to make this slideshow.

The end.”

"We can leave now?Oh, thank Kim Jong Un.!"

“We can leave now?Oh, thank Kim Jong Un.!”

googlekju2

“I mean, really: how lucky are they that their new Leader turns out to be a nuclear technology expert, genius computer scientist and shrewd geopolitical strategist? That guy is good at everything.”

Ms Schmidt did a stellar job in representing her country and the new information age, not to mention teenagers everywhere.

And she put to shame the head of the world’s most powerful technology entity, represented by her dad, the U.S. government politicians, represented by Bill Richardson, and the Free Press, represented by the Associated Press, all of whom didn’t have the sense, integrity, and honesty to just cut to the chase and get to the nut of the matter.

If their was a combination Pulitzer prize for citizen journalists, Sophie Schmidt has my nomination.

Sophie Schmidt--Teenage daughter/Citizen Journalist

Sophie Schmidt–Teenage daughter/Citizen Journalist

I suspect that Google head Eric Schmidt is, like fathers of teenage daughters everywhere, both very proud and very exasperated with young Sophie Schmidt tonight.

But I, for one, want to personally thank her for being the first person to substantively inform me what the Google delegations trip to North Korea was really like. Plus, she is very cute.

Now really, was that so hard?

Reuters Story on Google Head Visit to Pyongyang Datelined Seoul Devastates AP report from North Korea Bureau

8 Jan

Reuters Story on Google Head Visit to Pyongyang Datelined Seoul Devastates AP report from AP North Korea Bureau

Here is a comparison between the Reuters report from Seoul, South Korea and the Associated Press report from their “bureau” in Pyongyang, North Korea of the visit of the chairman of Google to North Korea.

AP was at the airport when the chief executive of Google arrived in Pyongyang and not a single mention of whether his electronic devices were confiscated upon arrival, or the fact that thousands languish in prison for attempting to communicate electronically outside the borders of North Korea.

Why even bother to have a bureau in the country if your competition writes a story filled with content, context, and honesty from the capital of a country at war with North Korea that devastates the AP report from the location which the story concerns? It is an embarrassment and shameful for the AP. They owe their readers an explanation.

http://www.modbee.com/2013/01/06/2521365/google-executive-chairman-schmidt.html

 

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) – Google’s chairman wants a firsthand look at North Korea’s economy and social media landscape during a private visit Monday to the communist nation, his delegation said, despite misgivings in Washington over the timing of the trip.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of one of the world’s biggest Internet companies, is the highest-profile U.S. executive to visit North Korea – a country with notoriously restrictive online policies – since Kim Jong Un came to power a year ago. His visit has drawn criticism from the State Department because it comes only weeks after a controversial North Korean rocket launch; it has also prompted speculation about what the businessman hopes to accomplish.

Schmidt arrived on a commercial Air China flight with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has traveled more than a half dozen times to North Korea over the past 20 years.

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/07/us-korea-north-google-idUSBRE9060SS20130107

 

North Korea welcomes Google’s Schmidt to Internet black hole

By David Chance and Ju-min Park

SEOUL | Mon Jan 7, 2013 4:04pm EST

(Reuters) – North Korea has done its best to butter up Google Inc. ahead of Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit that started on Monday, even to the extent of setting up a gmail account for its state news agency KCNA at kcna@gmail.com.

Sadly, the Hermit Kingdom’s chosen email address doesn’t work as it is short of the minimum six characters required for a Google account.

If Schmidt, on a private visit with Google executive Jared Cohen and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, does access the Internet in his foreigners-only hotel, he’s likely to find a similar experience to that in Google’s Silicon Valley home.

Maxim Duncan, a Reuters correspondent who was in Pyongyang in 2010 and 2012, said speeds on systems set up for visiting foreign journalists were faster than those he was used to in China and that no sites were blocked.

“China correspondents were amused they could tweet in North Korea but not in China,” he said.

Schmidt may even come across a North Korean tablet that was unveiled last year and runs Google’s Android operating system, although the tablet is likely a knock-off of a cheap Chinese clone, according to Martyn Williams, a technology journalist who runs the North Korea Tech blog (www.northkoreatech.org).

But he will only get a glimpse of what experience of the web is like for the small elite that is granted access if he looks at the local Internet, essentially a North Korean-only Intranet that blocks access to the outside world.

“If he types in google.com, he won’t be able to reach it,” said Williams, who has visited the North, a reclusive state that has been run by the Kim family since it was established in 1948 and where Amnesty International says 250,000 people are imprisoned in forced labor camps for political crimes.

Even the local Intranet is limited to the politically sound among the 24 million strong population, according to Kim Heung-kwang, a North Korean computer engineering expert who defected to South Korea in 2004.

“I think around 100,000 people can use Intranet. There’s a North Korean version of portal service called “Naenara” (My Country) and people can download content posted there,” he said.

“People could do emails and chats until 2008, then the government shut down these services… (Now) It’s all about digital content from propaganda papers such as Rodong Sinmun (the main ruling party daily) or little games.”

According to North Korean law, the punishment for using anti-regime or “bourgeois” cultural content ranges from three months to two years of hard labor. In severe cases, the code allows up to five years of re-education through labor.

That is in sharp contrast to China, where social networking sites like Sina Corp’s hugely popular Weibo regularly carry stinging criticism of low-level officials and corruption, although China censors access to many websites.

North Korea’s economy, burdened by the cost of maintaining 1.2 million strong armed forces, and both nuclear weapons and rocket development programs, is around 1/40th the size of South Korea’s.

Its Internet is similarly stunted. The North has registered just over 1,000 IP addresses, according to industry estimates compared with more than 112 million in neighboring South Korea and more than 1.5 billion in the United States.

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF HACKING

While North Korea’s IT hardware skills are primitive, its software industry has had some successes.

There’s even a “Pyongyang Racer” computer game launched in 2012 and a software company called Nosotek also develops games and other applications at a fraction of the cost of other firms.

Another area of software development has also seen success for the North – malware – the malignant software that allowed North Korea to carry out a 10-day denial of service attack on South Korea in 2011.

Computers in the South from the government, military and financial services sector were targeted in an attack that antivirus firm McAfee, part of Intel Corp, dubbed “Ten Days of Rain” and which it said was a bid to probe the South’s computer defenses in the event of a real conflict.

“Cyberspace in North Korea is just a tool to attack and destroy enemies, not a space for sharing information,” said Jang Se-yul, a former North Korean soldier who went to a military college to groom hackers and who defected to the South in 2008.

Google’s Cohen, who espoused the power of Twitter in the “Arab Spring” revolutions and during protests in Iran, also looks set to encounter the limits of freedom and technology in his trip to the North.

Cohen held a well-publicized meeting with North Korean defectors last year which Schmidt also attended. Google itself hosted a dozen North Korean government officials the year before, according to people involved with the trip, although the technology giant declined comment when asked to confirm it.

A surge in 3G cellphone usage to more than a million users in a service run by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media Technology had triggered hopes among observers that technology could also crack the edifice of North Korea’s one-party state now ruled by the third generation of the Kim family.

But even a million cellphones is only 4 percent of the population and the network is tightly controlled, so users can only talk to others on the same network.

Suh Yoon-hwan, a researcher at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, who surveyed more than 1,000 defectors who arrived in South last year, said the Internet was a dream for ordinary North Koreans.

“Even cellphones aren’t working well. And these are mostly for a limited group of people like traders or Chinese in North Korea,” said Suh.

“At the moment, people like thumbdrives, rather than CD-Roms because they are bigger capacity and smaller size. They watch South Korean soap operas or movies.”

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

 

AP Exclusive: U.S. News Agency Sells Reputation to North Korea for Access to Exactly No News

2 Jan

AP Exclusive: U.S. News Agency Sells its Former Good Name to Serve as a Propaganda Arm of the World’s Most Repressive Govt in Exchange for Access Which has Produced Exactly  No News and Undermined the Principles of a Free Press

The Associated Press Korea coverage is nothing short of a stain on, and an embarrassment to, the principles of a free press, and it is past time they  cut it out, close their bureau in Pyongyang and apologize.

And I say this as a former AP reporter (who spent a month in North Korea as their correspondent) and was the AP bureau chief in Cambodia–a country whose modern series of governments are as equally as egregious as Pyongyang, albeit minor league amateurs in comparison to the Kim family regime, simply not as accomplished or sophisticated in their thuggery.The Kim family dynastic criminal syndicate which operates currently under the protection and privileges of a recognized nation state, will make Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge look like Mother Theresa when the unspeakable truth comes out what has happened inside North Korea over the last fifty years when they inevitably will implode and collapse.

It is the unspeakable which the AP refuses to speak about–the central moral and professional mandate of its existence–in its coverage of North Korea which is, in itself, unspeakably offensive.

The AP just released an “exclusive” that the head of Google is planning a trip soon to Pyongyang, the only country in the world that has a blanket ban on use of the internet, headlined “APNewsBreak: Google exec chairman to visit NKorea”, datelined Seoul with the byline of correspondent Jean H. Lee.

What is the outrage are the several things missing from the story that violate the most basic ethical standards and AP’s own formal–and now formerly– inviolable ethics, standards and rules, a concept they have repeatedly abandoned when it comes to Korea coverage since opening a “bureau” in Pyongyang last year.

Among the most glaring absences is that there is no mention of, or reference to, any input from AP’s own Pyongyang Bureau in the story, the existence of which is a rank embarrassment and scandal in itself.

AP cut a sweetheart deal with Pyongyang to open the bureau a year ago, the contents of the written contractual arrangement they have kept as tightly secret as if they were a third world dictatorship themselves.

In the year since they opened the bureau, in a pomp and ceremony propaganda excersize orchestrated by the same North Korean government architects that are charged with maintaining  the Kim family dictatorship personality cult, not a single substantive news story has been produced from the AP Pyongyang bureau.

In fact, on numerous occasions, the AP bureaus and their competitors based in other countries have consistently first broken virtually every significant top world North Korean story and informed the world, the AP in Pyongyang remaining entirely in the dark about every important news event happening under their very nose.

These include both the April and December launches of the long range missile tests designed to carry nuclear weapons that can reach the continental U.S., which were first reported by foreign media in Tokyo, Beijing, and Seoul, to the purge of the top army commander in July, to a series of stories regarding top personal changes and policy statements.

This is because the AP bureau in Pyongyang is a wholly owned and staffed subsidiary of the the intelligence and propaganda arms of the North Korean regime. The foreign reporters can go nowhere, meet no one, or see nothing without the permission of the Pyongyang government.

In fact, the AP staffers, both the “reporters” and “photographers” are entirely handpicked by the North Korean government and widely known to be nothing short of trained operatives of the regime intelligence services.

The entire function of the bureau is to give credibility to Pyongyang’s rank manipulation of events of import and twist, suppress, or blatantly create a false narrative of the life of North Korean citizens and the conduct, actions, and intent of its brutal elite who are in power.

Regarding this story of the head of Google–a Company whose name is so firmly ubiquitous it is now both a noun and a verb absorbed irrevocably in popular international linguistic usage it is synonymous with the power, good, and importance of freedom of, and free access to, information–visiting Pyongyang, the irony is so rich it would be cut from the script of a third rate daytime TV soap opera.

Specifically, the story made only a comically brief, frightened reference in passing to the most obviously important news of the story that was so transparent one could almost visualize the AP bosses fleeing from the terror of upsetting their Pyongyang choreographers by reporting a truth: That North Korea is the only country on earth that outright bans the entire internet technology that has transformed life in literally every other piece of real estate on the planet. And failed entirely to mention the  fact that North Korean citizens are routinely imprisoned if caught using any communication devices to access information from, or communicate with people in, countries outside the borders of the worlds saddest, most repressive, most despicable gulag posing as a government and given the benefits rights and benefits of a a seat at the table of the rest of the properly organized nation states.

These are facts so ubiquitously known, that is outside the borders of North Korea, and so obvious that a good chunk of the American population that couldn’t name who their own current vice president is are aware of this news. But not if they were forced to rely on the AP for their news and information.

And in a further inexcusable breach of ethics, the AP censored the title of the job of the author of this story, editing out the fact that Ms. Jean Lee is also the “Bureau Chief” of the Pyongyang AP bureau simultaneously with her same function in Seoul–two countries formally at war with each other.

If this story involved any other country, or the AP wasn’t running fully scared of upsetting the Pyongyang authorities, they would have had input from the Pyongyang bureau, obtained some comment from a regime official or, more probably, confirmation of the very country the entire story was the subject of. But not one word. Not even the obligatory “No Pyongyang official could be reached fro comment.
In fact the sources for the entire story were all anonymous, in itself a violation of AP’s own rules requiring two named sources for publishing a story.

But the biggest outrage, among the aforementioned and several more, is buried deep in the story, in a reference  that the Google chief will be merely a member of a delegation with Kun “Tony” Namkung who they say will “also (be) leading the trip” and identified him as “an Asian affairs expert who has made numerous visits to North Korea over the past 25 years. Namkung also has been a consultant to the AP.”

AP made no reference to how Mr Namkung is “an Asian affairs expert” or what he had been in the employ of the AP “consulting” about.

In truth, Mr Namkung is a broker who makes his living taking large amounts of money from people such as the AP and Google in exchange for getting them access to meet with North Korean elite government officials and taking  a cut from business deals being negotiated. In fact, Mr. NamKung was central to the deal negotiated with the Pyongyang propaganda apparatus to open the AP bureau itself, which is so cowed, ineffectual, and counterproductive it is unwilling to shed the most mundane of light on even this what normally would be a wholly innocuous and non controversial news piece.

AP should be ashamed of themselves and quit shilling for the most offensive, oppressive dictatorship in the world and knowingly misleading their readers as part of a deal to pimp for the thugs in power in Pyongyang. Not to mention soiling the reputation of the free press, and by extension, me.

Here is a link to the just released AP story: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gqBQsr0HoEAxofMe8hK-3v5GkDcA?docId=624f23a869cc46f1be68afbc96977083

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