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A North Korean propaganda poster shows its Eternal President, Kim Il-sung, being adored by the country's citizenry.
A North Korean propaganda poster shows its Eternal President, Kim Il-sung, being adored by the country's citizenry.

Propaganda nation: how North Korea spreads its message

The death of Kim Jong Il has brought fresh attention on the inner workings of how North Korea addresses its people.
Dec 20th 2011, 2:05 PM 29,928 13

THE DEATH OF its second Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Il, has brought new attention on how North Korea communicates with the public – and how it attempts to shape the public opinion in doing so.

As a totalitarian state, North Korean media is entirely produced and controlled by the State – and by its ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, which effectively controls all power in the country.

Without prevalent access to the internet (North Korea instead offers a censored intranet, the ‘Kwangmyong’) the most exposure that any person within the republic can expect is through the more established means like TV, radio and newspapers.

Though the Constitution of North Korea guarantees freedom of speech and of the press, both rights are conditional on any expression being supportive of the government – though with all journalists being members of Kim’s Workers’ Party, this isn’t likely to ever pose many problems.

Moreover, there is only ‘source’ for any news stories – the Korean Central News Agency, which provides a series of daily press statements governing the news agenda for that day.

With complete control over what its people hear and see, the government makes heavy use of the newspapers – all of which are published either by the State, government, army or other organs – to spread the image of an idyllic nation being targeted by other nations almost as a result of sheer envy.

The US is the main target for this scorn, with the media regularly sending the image that an attack from the “imperialist” US is imminent – but always reassuring the public that North Korea’s own military might will offer easy retaliation.

Those sentiments are widely noted in the publicity posters erected by the government around Pyongyang and elsewhere, many of which are seen below:

Broadcast media – though ownership of TV sets is still very limited – provides the best way for the government to communicate with the public in the cities and beyond, however.

All TVs and radios sold in the country are distributed without tuning features – all equipment is pre-tuned to the approved TV and radio stations – and broadcast manipulation so frequent that some stations even claim to broadcast from a jealous South Korea, when in fact they are based just north of the border.

TV broadcasts – which only begin every evening after 5pm, when the public has finished its day’s work, unless there is emergency news such as Kim Jong Il’s death – are packed with even more messages portraying the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the informal ‘North’ prefix is never used within the borders) as an idyllic paradise.

Though internet access is limited to all but a handful of people, North Korea’s external propaganda outlet Uriminzokkiri conveniently puts those videos on YouTube for the rest of the world to watch.

Here’s a quick selection of some of the displays of political magnitude, industrial might and natural wonder that North Korea claims to boast:

A video showing some of North Korea’s engineering products, to the tune of a song glorifying Kim Jong Il (whose name you’ll hear regularly):

How North Korean technology can alleviate male pattern baldness:

Another video showcasing the country’s rural beauties:

A recent upload, showing the continued mourning of Kim Jong Il’s death in Pyongyang:

As some extra listening material, the excellent North Korea Tech blog has posted an audio clip from the Voice of Korea radio station’s English-language broadcast, announcing the death of Kim Jong Il.

Other North Korean photo galleries:

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Gavan Reilly


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