Lee Sang Yong, the editor-in-chief of Daily NK, a South Korean online newspaper, explains how real news exists even in North Korea.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Lee says they usually recruit people through a number of activities in China.
“When North Koreans visit the country, they suddenly find out that the reality there is very different from what they’ve been told by the official North Korean channels. Obviously, it makes people angry, and they begin to realise the [extent of] abuse of human rights and question the system in their homeland.”
Asked how real news shared in North Korea, Lee says that intellectuals get to know the news first – sometimes from listening to the radio broadcast to the country, at times from talking to the executives who travel abroad. Those intellectuals create an environment where the news flows, and, eventually, a piece of it leaks to the public.
“You could say that journalism in North Korea is the information that people spread mouth-to-mouth. The state-run media only strictly follow the propaganda, and the North Korean population is very perceptive to the verbally distributed news.”
Asked to describe the state of the North Korean propaganda machinery today, Lee says it is aimed at looking as real as possible.
“Back in the day, the media used to obscure the origin of the presented news, but now they strive to have all the information backed up. The media has also started to use a lot of extraterritorial information so the people get the impression that they have access to it. Several demonstrations that took place in South Korea were even depicted relatively truthfully by the North Korean channels.”
In future, Lee says the so-called post-marketplace generation will play a key role. “Born after the mass starvation period, the post-marketplace generation does not believe the state propaganda immediately and often has no feelings for the regime at all. They do their business via the markets, they tend to be individualistic and have IT skills, which open the path to freedom.”