Big Shifts in NK Media Landscape

The U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, Robert King believes that Pyongyang’s reporting of its April 13th failed rocket launch shows clearly how much the North Korean information landscape has shifted in recent years.

“I think the point is that the media environment in North Korea has changed and is changing,” King, who was speaking at an event in Washington, DC for the launch of the new InterMedia report, ‘A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment’, asserted.

The decision by the North Korean authorities to report the failed satellite launch shortly after it occurred was, King said, “quite remarkable.”

Speaking with Daily NK this morning, the report’s primary author Nat Kretchun agreed with King’s assessment of the broader shift in behavior, saying that the new report shows “just how much the media environment has opened since the 1990s.”

The report “demonstrates the degree to which we can show that there is some impact from external media,” he said. “It fits and contributes more broadly into some of the changes that we see on a wider scale.”

In particular, Kretchun believes that in the last three to four years the act of accessing external media sources has become ordinary in North Korea, especially in the more open border regions, and the transmission of information between people is increasingly common.

“The act of accessing external media has been normalized,” he explained. “People are talking much more than they used to; they are less scared of accessing these things.”

On the failed launch, Kretchun went on, “The pressure of having foreign reporters act as the tip of the spear, asking questions, had an immediate impetus.” But, he added, “This underlies some deeper questions about the ability of the regime to control the information narrative overall”

The changing situation is, he said, “creating an added calculus, where the regime doesn’t have complete freedom of motion anymore.”

“They cannot completely control the narrative; they have to bow to the opinion of the people more than they used to,” he pointed out. “I’m really curious to see in some upcoming events how they handle it.”