French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) announced yesterday it will open a Pyongyang bureau in the next few months.
During a meeting with Yonhap News Agency’s president on Wednesday, AFP Chairman Emmanuel Hoog said the news outlet was still working on opening the office in the North Korean capital.
“We expect to be able to do so in the next few months. It’s something that is on the good tracks,” Hoog said during interview with Yonhap.
If accurate, AFP’s new bureau will be the fifth foreign news agency in Pyongyang alongside Kyodo, the Associated Press (AP), Sputnik International (formerly Ria Novosti) and Xinhua.
The French agency would be the second western media outlet with a presence in Pyongyang, after AP, which opened its bureau in January 2012, a year after Kim Jong Un took office.
“It is foreign media’s job to infiltrate the iron curtain and leak unreported news to the international society,” said Kim Heung Kwang, a defector at the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.
Kim expressed concern that AFP might not be able to actively report on materials other than what the North Korean government provides for them.
“Helping to broadcast North Korea’s parade and results of their economic development can still be done without adding one more company to the list of foreign media stationed in Pyongyang … There is no reason for AFP to be there if they will follow the steps of predecessors who have already shown disappointing results.”
Cha Du-hyeogn, the former secretary to President Lee Myung-bak for crisis information, said strong censorship from the North Korean government is inevitable, yet the Pyongyang project will still be worth it in the long term.
“Even under North Korea’s authorities eyes, it is still beneficial for AFP as no one in the world knows what will happen to North Korea in next two to three years.”
Cha also emphasized that maintaining the Pyongyang bureau could bring unexpected changes inside the North Korean regime.
“Some might say that AFP is being used as one of the North Korean government’s propaganda materials to fake its ‘generosity’ towards Western media. But no government in the world can completely block off the side effects that AFP‘s presence in Pyongyang might bring to North Korea.”
AFP Seoul Chief Giles Hewitt told NK News that the agency’s regional headquarters in Hong Kong will decide on the details of how the Pyongyang Bureau project will operate.
“The Seoul Bureau is not involved in this project at this moment … Such decisions are made by our headquarters in Hong Kong and as far as I know, the whole plan is still under negotiation.”
NK News previously reported in June 2014 that AFP were planning to open a permanent news bureau in the North’s capital by the end of 2014.
Featured image: Eric Lafforgue
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