Loanwords frequently appearing in the Rodong Sinmun

An increasing number of foreign words and inconsistencies in North Korea’s state-run publication, Rodong Sinmun, has not gone unnoticed by the population.
A source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on November 21 that the authorities have been delivering public lectures on the need to “actively fight to eradicate the bad habit of using foreign languages, including words of Japanese origin and the language of the puppet regime (South Korea).” However, many have pointed out the increasingly frequent usage of foreign words in the Rodong Sinmun.
The lectures have been increasing in frequency since May, and emphasize the need to protect a sense of national identity even in the field of language. However, the ubiquitous use of foreign terminology and colloquial expressions in the Rodong Sinmun is undercutting the efforts.
An analysis of recent issues of the Rodong Sinmun reveals that the state-run publication has printed Japanese loanwords derived from English including “gopu (cup)” in its June 5 and 20, July 10, August 11, September 6, and October 19 and 31 issues. An article on Kim Jong Un’s visit to the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Site Souvenir Factory uses the Japanese word “zak (zipper),” while the Japanese word “hama (hammer)” was used six times alone in November.
“The Rodong Sinmun has surrendered to the enemy in our battle for ideology. What can ordinary people like us do when even the reporters supposedly armed with ideology are soaked with the culture of imperialism,” the source sarcastically pointed out.
An article published on November 11 about Songdowon International Children’s Camp used the words “rice box (lunchbox)” and “rice bowl (rice-washing bowl).” These words are frequently used by ordinary citizens but do not appear in the official language dictionary published by the North Korean Social Science Publishing House, and are therefore considered a departure from the norm for official publications and vernacular.
Moreover, some residents have noticed the stark contrast between reports in the Rodong Sinmun regarding the flood recovery and the situation on the ground, particularly with regards to premature claims by the daily that recovery efforts are “complete” in many regions when people in those areas are still struggling.
An article published on November 15 in the same publication, described a Chongjin Railway Station staff member allegedly, “staying up all night to help a pregnant woman suffering from labor pains,” and “even writing down the destinations of travelers and their health conditions in order to accommodate their needs.”
In response to the article, a source in North Hamgyong Province noted, “I have never heard of them (train crew members) writing down the health conditions of passengers, but frequently hear that they demand bribes.”
Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to