North Korean party organ the Rodong Sinmun has for two days in a row covered the mass-protest held on November 12 in Seoul and its political aftermath.
But analysis shows that the paper has only used selective pictures to avoid showing the entirety of the crowds and the wealth of Seoul.
In contrast to its very limited image use, North Korea has tried its best to cover the protest in as much detail as possible, making references to events that took place only a day before going to press.
“Surrender now Park Geun-hye, tomorrow may come where the people are victorious,” Rodong’s Sunday edition (November 13) declared in on its front page.
Subheadlines claimed that around 1.1 million inhabitants from all over South Korea participated in the march – around 100,000 more than what most predicted and a statistic corroborated by international media reports.
But the Workers’ Party mouthpiece did not publish images reflecting the sheer size of the march, instead opting for close-up shots of small groups of protestors.
Angered and exhausted by the ongoing Park-Choi scandal, one million South Koreans – almost two percent of the country – gathered in central Seoul on Saturday.
Chanting for President Park’s resignation or immediate impeachment, the protest ended the next morning without any serious injury or destruction of property, multiple media reported.
Just as in its previous rapid response to Park-Choi gate on October 27, Rodong Sinmun published articles and photos showing mass protests in South Korea the day after the demonstration.
As shown in the NK News photo above, almost all domestic and international media covering the mass protest has used at least one wide-shot image taken from the top of buildings in the neighborhood to show the “one million” marching in a single shot.
Such examples could be easily found in Google’s search results using the keywords “one million Gwanghwamun“, which shows multiple images taken on that day from the skyscrapers surrounding the Gwanghwamun Plaza, the main area where protests were held.
However, pictures used by Rodong – presumably taken from South Korean reports – only showed small fragments of the crowd.
The only picture from Sunday’s edition that could be considered a “crowd shot” was on its left bottom corner, but it still cropped about half the crowd from originals taken by the South Korean press.
The pattern continued in the Monday edition as well, using four images of fragmented groups holding anti-Park banners and one “crowd shot” that has also been cropped.
NK News could not independently identify where the original image was taken, but comparison with other images revealed that the picture Rodong used was most likely significantly modified.
North Korea also wanted to avoid showing its readers the wealth of Seoul, an expert argued.
“It is impossible to get a full wide shot of the one million crowd without including Seoul’s skyscrapers and its infrastructures,” Cha Du-hyeogn, a former intelligence secretary to President Lee Myung-bak, told NK News.
“The North would want to avoid showing this to its people, also, as seen in the images featuring small crowds with political banners, it would have been easier for Pyongyang to cherry-pick the flags that included the messages that they wanted to show to locals.”
Despite the North Korean government’s decision to filter what its populace sees of the South’s November Struggle – the term widely used by multiple South Korean media – it still has poured a fair amount of resources into covering events in Seoul.
It is the norm to take about two to three days for South Korean domestic events to be published in Rodong. But just as they covered the outbreak of the Park-Choi scandal, North Korea reported on the protest the next day.
“Despite the public authorities’ attempts to crack down (on the protest), South Koreans from all walks of life have protested around the Blue House until 7 a.m. on Sunday…,” Rodong said, making reference to an event that happened about 26 hours before its Monday publication.
It seems that Rodong, at least until late on Sunday morning, has kept an eye on the South Korean media’s reports, and it also covered South Korean opposition party responses to a day earlier, both released around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, about 22.5 hours before its Monday edition.
“The Minjoo Party’s spokesperson claimed during an official press briefing that Park Geun-hye should humbly accept the protestors’ popular sentiment and ultimately step down from engaging in state affairs,” it continued.
“Before the protest was held, Rodong already discussed South Korean plans for the protest. So in-depth reports using its text is not entirely unexpected.”
However, making historical reference to Pyongyang’s silence on the anti-Communist Revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe, Cha argued that showing one million protestors would be a gamble to the North Korean government.
“Mass-rallying in support of their leader is the part of North Korean life,” Cha said. “But an image of one million people voluntarily rallying in the center of Seoul in a defiance of their political ruler?”
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun
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