N. Korea’s Rodong Sinmun begins adding watermarks to digital photos

The move appears to be part of efforts by the regime to strengthen copyright claims

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party, began adding watermarks to its photos this month. A source said this measure was proposed by the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department and recently approved by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The source, who is based in Pyongyang, said Friday that the watermark was added to the photos to strengthen copyrights.

“The Central Committee’s Propaganda and Agitation Department submitted a written proposal early last month, and it received No. 1 ratification,” he said. 

“No. 1 ratification” means a matter was reported to Kim Jong Un and received his direct approval.

Since Kim came to power, North Korea has been underscoring the “age of the knowledge economy.” The country has responded by calling for better systems to protect copyrights, and in 2019, it created a new administrative organization, the “Intellectual Ownership Bureau,” to protect intellectual property rights.

The source said the watermark is added only to digital versions of the Rodong Sinmun viewed on computer screens, mobile phones and the like.

“The watermark isn’t added to the paper editions sent through post offices to the secretaries of regional party and people’s committees,” he said.

North Koreans can use a smartphone app to read the Rodong Sinmun. Watermarks were apparently added only to photos for the digital editions for web and mobile, which are relatively easy to pirate and distribute.

Another point worth noting is that watermarks do not appear on photos of Kim or of events Kim attended.

“The 10 Great Principles on the Establishment of the Party’s Unitary Ideological System and party’s administration of video material and archival publications do not follow these standards,” said the source. “The authorities do not place watermarks on video material of Kim, videos with Kim or similar photos.”

He said such photos or videos follow separate management standards for videos featuring Kim or archival publications.

“In the case of meetings Kim attended, the authorities do not put watermarks on the photos, even if only ordinary cadres appear,” he added.

As a matter of principle, North Korea religiously administers as programmatic documents important party conventions, opening addresses and decisions that “honor the history and revolutionary achievements of the Leader to be recorded in the history of the Workers’ Party.” Indeed, all of them are personally attributed to the country’s supreme leader.

Photos in which the supreme leader appears also receive no watermarks based on this principle.

In addition, the computer code “pointer ; display” has been added to photos of Kim on North Korean websites.

Now, when you scroll over a photo of Kim, the pointer disappears. When you drag your mouse over a photo without Kim, the pointer appears as usual.

Essentially, it is a technical measure to prevent people from hiding Kim’s face or form using the mouse pointer.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.