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Associated Press opens full news bureau in North Korea

The American news agency is the first major Western outlet to open a full news, picture, and video bureau in the notoriously secretive state.

AP president Tom Curley with KCNA president Kim Pyong Ho at the opening of the agency's bureau in Pyongyang.
AP president Tom Curley with KCNA president Kim Pyong Ho at the opening of the agency's bureau in Pyongyang.
Image: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

ASSOCIATED PRESS HAS become the first major Western news organisation to open a full bureau in the highly-secretive state of North Korea.

AP, as it is more commonly known, has opened a full news bureau in Pyongyang with writers and photojournalists supplementing the video bureau it set up in the Communist state’s capital in 2006.

It comes just weeks after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il who has been replaced by his son Kim Jong Un in a state renowned for its secrecy and tight control of all aspects of life including the media.

AP will operate independently and to the same standards as the organisation’s other bureaux worldwide, its president and CEO Tom Curley said. All media outlets in North Korea are state run and most citizens have no access to the internet or foreign media.

Agencies such as China’s Xinhua have a presence in North Korea, BBC News reports and most foreign journalists have their access to the country severely restricted as reporter Sue Lloyd Roberts found out when she went there to film an investigative documentary for the BBC.

AP is an independent 165-year-old news cooperative founded in New York and owned by its US newspaper membership. It has operations in more than 100 countries and employs nearly 2,500 journalists across the world in 300 locations.

The US does not have any formal diplomatic ties with North Korea but the president of the state news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the two sides had “been able to find a way to understand one another and to cooperate closely enough to open an AP bureau”.

KCNA did not carry any report of the AP bureau’s opening but does mention that newly-anointed Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was presented with a special honorary membership of the Nepal Journalist Association.

During the opening of the bureau, Curley said:  ”Everyone at The Associated Press takes his or her responsibilities of a free and fair press with utmost seriousness. We pledge to do our best to reflect accurately the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as what they do and say.

“The world knows very little about the DPRK, and this gives us a unique opportunity to bring the world news that it doesn’t now have.”

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Hugh O'Connell

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