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North Korea Exposes Censorship Essay

Censorship in North Korea ranks among some of the most extreme in the world, with the government able to take strict control over communications. North Korea is routinely ranked at the bottom of Reporters Without Borders' annual Press Freedom Index, occupying the very last place in 2017.

All media outlets are strictly owned and controlled by the North Korean government. As such, all media in North Korea gets its news from the Korean Central News Agency. The media dedicates a large portion of its resources toward political propaganda and promoting the personality cult of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il[1] and Kim Jong-un. The government of Kim Jong-un still has absolute authority over and control of the press and information.[2]


Kim Il-sung (Leader from 1948-1994)[edit]

Kim Il-sung was born an ordinary man named Kim Sung-ju on April 15, 1912 at the peak of western and Japanese imperialism.[3] Kim Il-sung’s rule was based on ruthless abuses, including frequent use of enforced disappearances and deadly prison camps to inflict fear and repress any voices challenging this rule.[4] Kim Il-sung’s hardline views of limiting the freedom of expression of the North Korean people has been kept alive by current Supreme Leader and grandson of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un. Today, all local North Korean media outlets are run by the state, the radio and televisions are permanently fixed to channels that the state have chosen.[5]

North Korea’s biggest economic, political and military benefactor under Kim Il-sung was the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin reportedly handpicked Kim Il-sung, who was a fluent Russian speaker to be the ruler over North Korea.[6] To help consolidate power, Kim Il-sung launched the Concentrated Guidance Campaign; a massive ideological census and registration of the background and political purity of each and every North Korean. The Soviet influence in North Korea was endorsed under Kim Il-sung and the censorship seen in North Korea today began with the nationalization of major industries, labor reforms, seizure of privately owned land a propaganda campaign to enhance Kim Il-sung’s image in North Korean minds.[7]

1946-Present: The Korean Central News Agency[edit]

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) is the state news agency of North Korea that was established on December 5, 1946. The agency portrays the views of the North Korean government for other foreign powers and countries to consume. According to its website, KCNA "speaks for the Workers' Party of Korea and the [North Korean] government" It's seen as the most influential news outlet in North Korea because its messages are geared toward foreigners and North Korea's population of 24 million people.[8]

It is the main, state-run news organization and is responsible for all news in North Korea and also distributes photos. Their content is available in Korean, English, Spanish and Japanese. From Jan. 1, 2011, the site also began offering video.The KCNA often broadcasts North Korean and pro-Kim propaganda. It has also reported fake achievements of North Korea, such as its space program and its standard of living as compared to the United States. It continues to label South Korea and the United States as "imperialists".[9] The news agency acts as the nation’s public relations and multimedia firm, with news that is not hard to tell from propaganda. South Korea’s Ministry of Defence maintains a group of readers who try to interpret the significance of the news agency’s output. Some themes the KCNA consistently cover include denouncing the actions of the United States and Japan as well as promoting the celebrity and personality of Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il. Their 2,000 employees are under strict watch to make sure they report in favor of their country.

Jang Song-thaek was considered the second most powerful figure in North Korea next to Kim Jong-un before he was executed because he was seen as a “counter-revolutionary” to the government. After his death in 2013, it is reported that 35,000 of Korean reporting were deleted by the KCNA and his name was taken off every article in one of the outlets biggest censorship crackdowns.[10]

Kim Jong-il (Leader from 1994-2011)[edit]

Kim Jong-il was made commander-in-chief and head of the military affairs commission by his father Kim Il-sung in the spring of 1994. Later that year in July, Kim Il-sung died of a heart attack and Kim Jong-il became the next member of the Kim Dynasty to rule North Korea.[11] Kim Jong-il upheld his father’s authoritarian regime and strict censorship. He was known for using military propaganda to distract North Korean citizens from their lack of freedoms and access to outside information. Despite only giving citizens access to hyper-militarized government propaganda, many cell phones and DVDs were obtained illegally under Kim Jong-il.[12]

In 1983, Kim Jong-il’s book The Great Teacher of Journalists was translated into English. In this book, Kim Jong-il guides journalists to take the best pictures of their leader, study their leader’s works, and instill loyalty to their leader in others. Kim Jong-il includes stories of his own remarkable feats in this book, detailing when he saved a reporter from death and when he edited someone’s political essay to perfection.[13] In the eyes of Kim Jong-il, a journalist’s purpose is not to report the truth, but instead to loyally praise their leader.

2004-2008: Cell phone ban[edit]

The North Korean government has implemented policies to prevent outside sources of information from reaching the people of North Korea. Starting in the 1990s when famine overtook the country, traders used cell phones as a means to illegally bring food and goods across the border.[14] Cellular devices were initially introduced in North Korea in 2002 only to be temporarily banned two years later.[15][16]

In December 2008 Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company, introduced North Korea to Koryolink, a 3G network. Internet access is only permitted for foreign travelers or the elite.[17] By 2015, three million North Koreans had subscribed to Koryolink. Users of Koryolink must apply for a permission to subscribe and are “subject to controls and surveillance by at least eight ministries and organizations between the party, state and army.” The network does not allow any access to international calls. Users sometimes will receive propaganda messages.[16]

In 2013, foreigners were granted 3G mobile phone Internet access with a monthly data plan that could be used via USB modem or through SIM cards.[18] Recently, with more government awareness of alternative access to external information, increased security measures to eliminate these resources have been enacted.[19] This includes higher border security where illicit cell phones gain access to China’s mobile networks.[20]

These phones could potentially be vehicles for releasing detailed news of harsh ruling within the country which is strictly prohibited. Beyond punishment for those using phones within the country, danger exists for escapees spreading knowledge of the country’s extreme laws. Text messages and cell phone photographs are sent to external journalists and activists in South Korea to spread knowledge of the conditions. Some North Korean’s send information and act as journalists and sources sharing stories. Prominent news accounts surrounding Kim Jong-un’s ankle surgery and his wife, Ri Sol-ju’s 2012 pregnancy were released from these insiders.[21]

Increasingly, as social media and news applications via smartphone become the common thread of news outlets, North Korea pushes further curtailment. A tightly controlled cyberspace exists within the country where a small number of upper class citizens have access to an intranet, called "Kwangmyong".[22] In contrast to the United States’ World Wide Web, this independent resource provides communication between industry, universities, and government. It is used simply for the spreading of information through chats and emails which are both monitored and filtered by the government. Allowing only a select group of researchers, propagandists, media workers, etc. to access state media and items which have been removed from the public’s Internet. Recently, with more government awareness of alternative access to external information, increased security measures to eliminate these resources have been enacted.[23]

Kim Jong-un (Leader from 2011-Present)[edit]

Kim Jong-un rules with a heavy hand and has worked to consolidate power since becoming the supreme ruler of North Korea on December 28, 2011.[24] Ruthless in nature, he ordered the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and allegedly commanded the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam.[25]

Kim Jong-un keeps North Korea under his surveillance through extreme censorship. The regime has a press freedom score of 85, with 100 being the worst score, and is ranked last in global rankings of 180 countries.[26] North Korean journalists must belong to the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and adjust their reportings to positively reflect Kim Jong-un’s leadership. Foreign media are not welcomed and are often used as scapegoats by North Korean media.[27] Failure to follow strict guidelines as set forth by the WPK can lead to imprisonment, forced labor or death.[28]

Human rights violations in North Korea raise global concern. Kim Jong-un’s leadership is notorious for torture, mysterious disappearances and sexual violence. Each layer of the government is structured to expel potential political threats and disseminate the ideology of Kim Jong-un, and those who attempt to circumvent censorship face steep consequences.[29]

Radio and television censorship[edit]

Further information: Radio jamming in Korea

Radio or television sets which can be bought in North Korea are preset to receive only the government frequencies and sealed with a label to prevent tampering with the equipment. It is a serious criminal offence to manipulate the sets and receive radio or television broadcasts from outside North Korea. In a party campaign in 2003, the head of each party cell in neighborhoods and villages received instructions to verify the seals on all radio sets.[30]

As North and South Korea traditionally have used different analog television systems (PAL and NTSC respectively), it has not been possible to view broadcasts across the border between the two countries without additional equipment.[citation needed]

According to the Daily NK, it is possible to broadcast news for North Korea through short-wave radio. Possessing a short-wave radio is against the law in North Korea, but the radios are allegedly confiscated and resold by corrupted agents of secret police.[31]

"A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment," a study commissioned by the U.S. State Department and conducted by InterMedia and released May 10, 2012, found that despite extremely strict regulations and draconian penalties, North Koreans, particularly the elites, have increasing access to news and other media outside the state-controlled media authorized by the government. While access to the internet is tightly controlled, radio and DVDs are common media accessed, and in border areas, television.[32][33] Up to one in two urban households own a Notel (also called Notetel), a portable media player made in China which has been popular in North Korea since about 2005 and was legalized in 2014, and has been credited with facilitating the extension of the "Korean Wave" (Hallyu, the increase of the popularity of South Korean pop culture internationally) into North Korea.[34][35][36]

As of 2011, USB flash drives were selling well in North Korea, primarily used for watching South Korean dramas and films on personal computers.[37]


North Korea is routinely ranked at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index rankings published annually by Reporters Without Borders. From 2002 through 2006, the country was listed as the worst in the world and from 2007 to 2016, it was listed second to last (behind Eritrea) of some 180 countries.[38][39][40][41] In 2017, North Korea was ranked the worst again.[42]

To become a journalist in North Korea, one has to graduate from college. After an ideology review and a strict background check, the student is drafted by the college dean and the managers. The drafted journalist will normally go through a probation period of 4 to 5 years and is then stationed after an assessment.

In North Korea, journalism as a job is to guard, defend, and advocate for and defend both the party and party head's ideologically. Since the role is defined as being a political activist and a fighter who can mobilize a crowd, a journalist in North Korea should be a true Kim Il-sung-ist and a fervent political activist, with a war correspondent spirit and political qualification. Journalists in North Korea are reeducated continuously.

The organization that takes charge of the reeducation of journalists in North Korea is the 'Chosen Reporter Alliance.' It is the strongest and the most systematized organization among the reporters and journalists' political idea education organizations. Usually the organization trains journalists and reporters intensively on philosophy, economics, world history, world literature, foreign language, etc.

Arguing about the contradictions in the system of North Korea itself is considered treason and is treated as a major violation in North Korean society. Over 70 percent of reports of Korean Central Broadcasting are allotted for Kim's idolization and propaganda system. The rest of the reports are spent on blaming and predicting the collapse of the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

The peporters in North Korea spend their time writing flattering articles about Kim Dynasty. Kim Jong-il used to punish the people who wrote from different point of view, saying "Words describe one's ideas."[43]

After reeducation, a journalist who works for over 15 years and has made a major contribution is titled a 'distinguished journalist.'[44]


Further information: Internet in North Korea

In 2006, Julien Pain, head of the Internet Desk at Reporters Without Borders, described North Korea as the world's worst Internet black hole,[45] in its list of the top 13 Internet enemies.[46]

Internet access is generally unavailable in North Korea. Only some high-level officials are allowed to access the global internet.[47] In some universities, a small number of strictly monitored computers are provided. Other citizens may only get access to the country's own intranet, called Kwangmyong.[48] Foreigners can access the internet using the 3G phone network.[49][50]

Internet access is restricted to regime elites and select university students. The state has created its own substitute "internet" – but even this network is restricted to certain elite grade schools, select research institutions, universities, factories, and privileged individuals. Moreover, the intranet is filtered by the Korea Computer Center, which ensures that only information deemed acceptable by the government can be accessed through the network.[51]

The North Korean Ullim, an Android-based tablet, on sale since 2014, has a high level of inbuilt surveillance and controls.[52]

See also[edit]


Mural of Kim Il-sung outside Songdowon Hotel, Wonsan
Propaganda of North Korea
Massive portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at the Arirang Mass Games in North Korea
A painting of Kim Jong-il from North Korean propaganda
Photorealistic sketch of Kim Jong-un
  1. ^"Kim Jong Il's leadership, key to victory". Naenara. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved January 27, 2006. 
  2. ^"North Korea ranked the world worst in Freedom of Press". Voice of America. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  3. ^Scholtz, Suzanne. "North Korea under communism". Victims of communism. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  4. ^Hyun Sik, Kim. "The Secret History of Kim Jong-il". Foreign policy. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 
  5. ^"North Korea". Freedom House. Freedom House. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
  6. ^Robertson, Phil. "Kim Il-sung's catastrophic rights legacy". HRW. HRW. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
  7. ^Richardson, Christopher. "North Korea's Kim Dynasty". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 27 September 2017. 
  8. ^Harlan, Chico. "In North Korea, the State-Run News Agency Is the Weapon of Choice". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  9. ^Weiser, Martin. "On Reading North Korean Media: The Curse of the Web". Sino-NK. Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  10. ^"Korean Central News Agency". North Korea Tech. Retrieved 5 October 2017. 
  11. ^Linton, Stephen (1996). "North Korea under the Son". The Washington Quarterly. 19 (2): 3–17. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  12. ^Lee, Kristine (2011). "No Revolution Here". Harvard International Review. 33 (2): 8–9. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  13. ^Barrett, Liz Cox (2013). "Elements of Gangnam style". Columbia Journalism Review. 51 (5): 48. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  14. ^Sang-hun, Choe. "North Koreans Rely on Smuggled Cellphones to Connect to the Outside World". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  15. ^"World briefings: North Korea", New York Times, June 4, 2004.
  16. ^ ab"North Korea Encouraging Internet, Cellphone Use so it can Better Spy on Citizens". Global News. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  17. ^Tong-hyung, Kim; Youkyung, Lee. "Look At How Bizarre North Korea's 'Internet' Is". Business Insider. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  18. ^Tong-hyung, Kim; Youkyung, Lee. "Look At How Bizarre North Korea's 'Internet' Is". Business Insider. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  19. ^Ki-cheol, Kim. "New Ban on Select Cell Phones in North Korea". New Focus. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  20. ^Sang-hun, Choe. "North Koreans Rely on Smuggled Cellphones to Connect to the Outside World". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  21. ^Sang-hun, Choe. "North Koreans Rely on Smuggled Cellphones to Connect to the Outside World". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  22. ^Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo. "Here's What Making Cell Phone Calls in North Korea Sounds Like". Vice. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  23. ^Ki-cheol, Kim. "New Ban on Select Cell Phones in North Korea". New Focus. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  24. ^"North Korea Profile-Leaders". BBC News. 
  25. ^Goldman, Russell. "DNA Confirms Assassination Victim Was Half Brother of Kim Jong-un, Malaysia Says". The New York Times. 
  26. ^"2017 World Press Freedom Index". 2017 World Press Freedom Index. 
  27. ^Sedaghat, Nouran. "NORTH KOREA EXPOSED: CENSORSHIP IN THE WORLD'S MOST SECRETIVE STATE". Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. 
  28. ^"Report on Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea". U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 
  29. ^"Report on Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea". U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 
  30. ^"Radio gives hope to North and South Koreans". CNN Asia. February 27, 2008. Retrieved April 28, 2010. 
  31. ^Kevin Kane (5 March 2007). "Private Citizens Liberating North Korea with Shortwave Radio". Daily NK. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  32. ^"Illicit access to foreign media is changing North Koreans' worldview, study says". The Washington Post. Associated Press. May 10, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012. 
  33. ^Nat Kretchun; Jane Kim (May 10, 2012). "A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment"(PDF). InterMedia. Archived from the original(PDF) on May 12, 2012. Retrieved May 10, 2012.  
  34. ^Pearson, James (March 27, 2015). "The $50 device that symbolizes a shift in North Korea". Reuters. 
  35. ^"Cheap Chinese EVD player spreads S. Korean culture in N. Korea". Yonhap. October 22, 2013. 
  36. ^"Diffusion de la vague coréenne "hallyu" au Nord par TV portable". Yonhap (in French). October 22, 2013. 
  37. ^"North Korea's Nascent Consumerism". Asia Sentinel. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  38. ^"Worldwide press freedom index". Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  39. ^"World Press Freedom Index". Voice of America. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  40. ^"Map". 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders. 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2016. 
  41. ^"Map". 2016 World Press Freedom Index. Reporters Without Borders. 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016. 
  42. ^"North Korea". Reporters Without Borders. 2017. Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  43. ^"North Korea controls over foreign countries' press" (in Korean). June 20, 2007. 
  44. ^"What would be the role of the journalist in North Korea, the country remarked as the lowest in Freedom of Press?". Seunguk Baek. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  45. ^"The Internet Black Hole That Is North Korea". The New York Times. October 23, 2006. 
  46. ^"List of the 13 Internet enemies". Reporters Without Borders. Archived from the original on January 2, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  47. ^"Freedom of the Press: North Korea". Freedom House. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  48. ^Eric Talmadge (23 February 2014). "North Korea: Where the Internet has just 5,500 sites". Toronto Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 July 2014.

censorship in north korea Essay

726 WordsNov 4th, 20133 Pages

Would you live in a place where there is no worldwide internet, no phones, or where none of any kind of your usual advertisements do not exist?(rhet) Well, in North Korea, millions live without knowing what it is like to live your kind of life where media is usually freely distributed and absorbed everywhere. The North Korean citizens are constantly being malnourished of information with the exception of the government's propaganda. To clarify, the North Korean regime's extreme media censorship should be suspended allowing the citizens free access to all kinds of media.
To begin with, the North Korean government's extreme censorship of media is corrupt, since it can help increase influence over the public and control over the…show more content…

Censorship of media in North Korea may have its drawbacks but it surely has some good side to it as well. The DPRK's media censorship has some judgment that is mean well for the country too such as protecting social unity and national glory. For instance, this is shown through big events like the Olympics or the World cup when North Korea broadcasts only when their country triumphs or they win a match. This demonstrates how the DPRK uses censorship to strengthen their country's morale and patriotic spirit. On the other hand the morale and patriotism can interfere with one's own thoughts allowing the communist government to easily control you. Surely you wouldn't want to live in a world where that happens?(rhet)
Last but not least, the censorship of media can lead to isolation and the ignorance of the globally advancing world. The censorship of media in North Korea can drastically affect the growth of a nation. According to the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt says, “As the world is becoming increasingly connected, their (North Korea) decision to be virtually (internet) isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth and so forth”. Think of how poverty can drastically affect the nation if censorship continues — millions of men, women, and children can be homeless and hungry, changing into a third world country. (emotional appeal). How would you

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