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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Most of the pages now terminated were remade versions of those purged in April 2019, though some were new concepts from DPRK state-run outlets which also first appeared last year.
Also removed were accounts that either claimed to be fan-made and not run by North Korean outlets, and others whose ties were less clear.
All but one of the known cases were removed due to “legal complaints,” while one was removed due to “hate speech” violations.
Other YouTube accounts of state-run externally-focused outlets are still operating after the latest purge, however.
Of those identified by NK News as having been terminated this January, three accounts which appeared to be directly operated by DPRK media outlets were removed “due to a legal complaint,” according to notices in red now appearing on the pages.
One was the page for DPRK Today (named “《조선의 오늘》 동영상”), a website which produces daily original articles and some original video content, and reproduces articles, photos, and videos from state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Rodong Sinmun, and Korean Central Television (KCTV).
The YouTube page mainly posted KCTV videos and some videos produced for the site specifically.
DPRK Today is operated by the Pyongyang Moranbong Editorial Bureau, according to its website.
Another of the three was simply named KCTV (조선중앙TV), posting most — but not all — programs that aired on the channel, usually posted the same day or the day after. Their management was less clear, and it may have been operated through a supporter.
The last one, named Revolutionary Activities News (혁명활동소식, also referred to as Supreme Leader’s Activities), posted exclusively KCTV programs of Kim Jong Un site inspections, documentaries, and other appearances. Its management was similarly vague.
Both of the latter first appeared after the April 2019 YouTube purge, while DPRK Today quickly remade their page and uploaded hundreds of videos in the time between being removed last spring and again this month, including re-uploads of those previously removed with the channel.
There were also pages removed in the latest round that have stated connections to DPRK state media but which claim to be run independently.
Several separate accounts named Red Star TV (붉은별TV) were operated by the DPRK Solidarity Group and chief editor Alexander Mostov, who “officially collaborates with the editors of the Naenara website and the DPRK media,” according to the group’s official website.
Naenara’s site on the world wide web is a state-run operation officially managed by the Foreign Languages Publishing House of the DPRK. Its domestic site run by the Central Informationization Research Institute is much different, including what is claimed to be an intranet-wide search engine, online shopping mall, and other features.
Multiple Red Star TV accounts were terminated last April but were recreated soon after, posting individual KCTV videos, live-streams of KCTV, and full-day or partial-day clips of those live-streams.
The ‘Site Info’ tab of their website says the official partnership with DPRK outlets began in January 2019, after having in November 2018 “drawn the attention of the DPRK Committee on Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (CCRFC), which marked the beginning of a discussion on the issue of our obtaining official status in the DPRK.”
“In January 108 (2019), our editorial team has officially started working with the DPRK, bringing the quality of work to a fundamentally new level. And today, despite numerous obstacles, we continue our work.”
Red Star TV (or Bulgeunbyeol TV) says their official website was created last April after their accounts were first removed, and that “in case of blocking of one of our channels, new relevant information will be posted on the site.”
One new YouTube channel linked on their homepage was created on January 7, likely following the latest removals.
The last of the known recent terminations by YouTube — this one for “hate speech” violations — was one named “푸옹 Phuong DPRK Daily,” created in July 2019 and which claimed to be operated by a “German with North Korean roots.”
“This channel is private and has no official ties to the DPRK,” the ‘About’ page on their channel said, according to a Google cache image.
Linked directly on the page, however, were most known state-run DPRK media sites.
Now appearing when attempting to access the page is a notice in red, different from the others detailed above, stating that “this account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy prohibiting hate speech.”
Details of these violations were not provided.
After last year’s removals, several experts told NK News that YouTube’s apparent policy towards North Korean accounts deprives researchers of a valuable and easy-to-access method of viewing and studying DPRK materials, even for neutral purposes.
One pro-DPRK activist who posts North Korean content on YouTube and Twitter also told NK News after the latest account terminations that “these channels are extremely important for a wide array of people.”
Natalie Azalea Everhart, who is active in the Korean Friendship Association USA, said these include “those like us trying to show a more human side of the DPRK for the promotion of peace and cultural exchange, all the way to foreign researchers and analysts attempting to monitor or gain just a little bit more insight into the country for whatever purpose.”
“From my perspective, it is just a self-fulfilling prophecy to talk all day about how closed off the DPRK is while simultaneously working hard to make sure that outsiders have almost no access to DPRK-related audiovisual content on popular social media,” she added.
One potential reason for YouTube’s decisions, despite failing to answer inquiries from NK News last April, could lie in the DPRK media outlets’ potential links to the North Korean ruling party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD) — sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in September 2017.
Chad O’Carroll, CEO and founder of NK News‘s parent organization the Korea Risk Group, said at the time that many in the “private sector have in the last couple of years revealed significantly increasing concerns related to many North Korea-related transactions.”
“Even the mere hosting of videos from North Korea-controlled vectors is something that is likely a sanctions concern for Youtube at this time,” he said.
Meanwhile, YouTube accounts for other DPRK outlets such as Uriminzokkiri, Sogwang, and KCNA, as well as for DPRK Friendship Associations and other fan accounts, remain live, while many also continue to operate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and other social media sites.
Given last year’s remaking of pages following the purge, DPRK Today, KCTV, and others removed in recent weeks may also reappear on YouTube in the coming days.
Edited by Oliver Hotham