KCBC office in Pyongyang caught fire in August, sources report

Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcaster Ri Chun Hee. Image: KCTV

A Korean Central Broadcasting Committee (KCBC) located in Pyongyang caught fire in mid-August, multiple sources in North Korea have reported.

“Smoke rose from the building and it was just chaos, I heard. The fire broke out in a studio room. I heard the story from people who worked near the building,” a Pyongyang-based source reported on November 1.

A separate source in Pyongayng added, “I went to Pyongyang to sell some products, and heard that a fire had broken out at a KCBC building.” Those responsible were punished and I heard that broadcasts were temporarily being made from the 105 Hotel [Ryukyong Hotel] until everything was repaired in September.”

“The studio was extensively damaged by the fire, and it appears that [those responsible] have received the death penalty. [KCBC broadcasters] may have gone to the Ryugyong Hotel temporarily to continue their TV and radio broadcasts,” a defector originally from Pyongyang who maintains contacts there told Daily NK.

The Ryukyung Hotel is 330 meters tall and hosts various communication antennas. There were previous plans to install a weather reporting station and TV transmission station at the hotel, making it an ideal temporary site to broadcast from.

“When a major incident [like this] occurs, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) goes around making sure people don’t talk about it,” said an additional source in Pyongyang, explaining why the incident wasn’t reported earlier.

“A fire breaking out at a propaganda outlet like KCBC might make people think spies were responsible, so the MSS makes sure no one talks about the incident. Generally, the rumors begin about such incidents two months after they happen.”

KCBC is a state-run organization under the control of North Korea’s Cabinet and is one of the country’s premier TV and radio broadcasters together with Radio Pyongyang. KCBC operates the TV station Korean Central Television (KCTV), Korean Central Radio (KCR), and Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

*This article was amended on November 8, 2018 to signify that the building in question was affiliated with Korean Central Broadcasting but not necessarily Korean Central News Agency.