About the Author
View more articles by Christina Lee
Christina Lee is an NK News contributor based in Washington DC. She previously worked as Communications Manager at NK News.
2017 has been one of the most eventful years in recent memory for the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea advanced its missile and nuclear program, the UN imposed new sanctions, Trump and Kim Jong Un exchanged heated words, North Korean agents allegedly assassinated the Dear Leader’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam, Dennis Rodman returned to Pyongyang, and major leadership changes in the U.S. and South Korea altered the course of U.S.-Korea and inter-Korean relations.
In total, we’ve published more than 1300 news articles, investigations, analyses, and galleries on our NK News and NK Pro services this year. From among them, we have compiled the ten most-read articles of 2017.
Our readers were keen to see what goes on in North Korea. The most popular content from this year included galleries filled with exclusive photos of daily life in North Korea, reports about unique developments in the DPRK’s technology sector, as well as an opinion piece by a North Korean scholar.
Our top piece of 2017 is no surprise. In October, Singaporean photographer Aram Pan flew across Pyongyang in a microlight plane and filmed the first ever aerial 360 video of Pyongyang, resulting in a truly unique panorama of North Korea’s capital city. Visitors to North Korea usually face numerous restrictions on what they can film or photograph, but The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield called the footage “extraordinary” for offering “unfettered views of the city.”
In April, NK News was invited to cover Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday and the Day of the Sun celebrations. NK News closely followed North Korea’s massive construction and renovations in preparation for the major national holiday, and photos captured at the event showed the official opening of Ryomyong Street.
3. Morning Chorus: Pyongyang’s 6 am wake up call (July 28)
Why does an eerie electronic ballad play across North Korea’s capital every morning? Is it a nationwide alarm clock? A call for mass exercise? Whatever its true purpose, its implicit meaning remains abundantly clear: the battle against the enemies of the state continues.
On October 28, the world went into a minor panic upon hearing North Korea had conducted rare blackout exercises and mass evacuation drills in secondary, tertiary cities and towns. The drills –which experts said have never happened before – came during a time of sharpened tensions surrounding the peninsula and in anticipation of a pending ICBM test, making it difficult to understand the purpose of the drills.
The Ryugyong Hotel is one of North Korea’s most iconic buildings despite its unfinished state. While construction of this abandoned project by Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom has been at a halt for decades, photos reveal that daily life around the site has undergone some interesting changes.
6. A brief history of “declarations of war” against North Korea (September 26)
This piece came at a time when North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho made an impromptu speech in New York, claiming that President Donald Trump had declared war on his country via Twitter, and that the DPRK now has the right to respond by shooting down U.S. aircraft outside of its territory. Despite the very public statement, Ri’s comments were not the first time North Korea has claimed that countries have made a “declaration of war”.
2017 saw not only massive technological developments in the DPRK’s missile and nuclear program but also in the country’s gaming industry. Over the summer, a North Korean company released a 3D shooting game called “Hunting Yankee,” a 3D fighting game that allows players to shoot down American soldiers with a sniper gun. Other war-themed video games released over the summer included “Confrontation war,” “Guardian,” and “Goguryeo battlefield.”
8. Pyongyang airport runs rare flight to Yokota Air Base, Japan (August 10)
A photo shared with NK News showed a potential escape flight for formerly detained Canadian citizen Pastor Lim Hyeon-soo, who was released that week by North Korea in a surprise move. The special unchartered flight bound for a U.S. air base in Japan was met with a Canada-bound plane departing the base.
In this interview with Shin Eun-mi, a South-Korean born U.S. citizen, we learn what it’s like to be banned from both sides of the Korean Peninsula, what she gained from her frequent trips to the North, and her experiences meeting with North Koreans in both countries.
Finally, we give you an opinion piece submitted by North Korea’s Institute of American Studies under the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The article provided the perspective of a North Korean researcher, who argued that the DPRK was forced to pursue a nuclear program by U.S. hostility.
Edited by Bryan Betts