Why North Korea’s State Propaganda Is Smarter Than You Think

October 3rd, 2012
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For a country that’s supposedly cut off from the rest of the world, North Korea’s state run KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) certainly demonstrates a shrewd ability to track international affairs.

To many outsiders, North Korean local news seems like a farce, characterized by gushing reports dedicated to things like the latest Kim statues to be erected up and down the country, and the celebrations that have taken place to honor them. But KCNA dedicate a surprisingly large amount of time to reporting on overseas conflicts too – both political and military – and a recent paper by Czech scholar Jana Hajzlerova has been investigating the structure and style of North Korean domestic news to reveal the fierce logic at KCNA’s heart.

In an exclusive interview with NK News, Hajzlerova explained how KCNA’s unique operational style is “not really comparable to any media classification you would find in foreign media” and is designed to passively re-enforce a Korean worldview that supports the existing regime.

Hajzlerova points out that “there is no real ‘domestic or foreign news’ as we would interpret in the West” and that international conflict reports are aimed solely as a means to “generate indirect criticism (of enemies) or indirect praising (of allies), as a way of reinforcing their worldview.”

Hajzlerova’s research focuses on the ongoing narratives and story lines that drive North Korean domestic news, noting how the current South Korean president, Lee Myung Bak is featured regularly as a universal arch enemy of the regime, against which the Kim government strives to find justice.

“He has been represented as portrayed as evil and clownish, the most shameful character, in an almost non-stop media campaign, since his election in 2007. There really is no other personality that received so much negative attention in DPRK news recently”

At the same time, the image of South Korean citizens in North Korean media is wrapped with innocence and victimization, to reinforce the idea that they should be ‘liberated’ by their northern brethren:

“They’re always removed, separated from their government, so, while Lee Myung Bak is always a traitor, out of more then 200 articles I have analyzed, North Korean news always tell how unfortunate it is for South Korean citizens to live under him”.

To this end, North Korean state news is smarter than you might at first think, as despite its brazen propagandizing and manipulation of world events, it constructs itself in a manner that serves its ultimate purpose: to legitimate the existing regime. That from an outside perspective its activity might seem ridiculous is of no concern to them.

If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, click here for the full interview with NK News.

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.

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  • http://twitter.com/sam_kriss Sam Kriss

    couldn’t the exact same things be said about the western media?