What are the major newspapers in North Korea?
By most accounts there are 12 major newspapers in North Korea. The Rodong Sinmun is by far the biggest publication and as the official mouthpiece of the Workers Party of Korea, it carries the largest influence domestically.
Other big publications include the Minju Choson, Joson Inmingun (published by the army) the Choson Sinbo (Published by Korean residents in Japan) and the English language Pyongyang Times.
The Rodong Sinmun
The Rodong Sinmun was first published on the 1st of November 1945. Back then it was a weekly called Chongro (right way) and was an organ of the Northern bureau of the Korean Communist Party.
After the establishment of the Workers Party of Korea in 1946, the name was changed to Rodong Sinmun (Labour Daily).
It is regarded as the official source of the North Korean viewpoint in international circles and is closed monitored daily by North Korea watchers.
Newspapers in North Korea are very thin and this one is no exception. It is made up of only 6 pages.
The first two pages carry stories related to the supreme leader plus an editorial. This is commonly photos and text of whatever “on the spot guidance” or factory opening the leader undertook that day.
Page 3 is usually about economic news both internal and foreign, as well as the successful results of party policies domestically. Page 4 covers stories about arts and culture.
Page 5 and 6 are dedicated coverage about Inter-Korean relations and international news. These stories usually take a negative angle. Stories about human rights abuse and protests in South Korea are common.
International news is usually published late, as it takes some days for a censor to approve certain topics. For example, the Rodong Sinmun took almost four days to cover the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City.
Daily circulation is up to 1 million copies however it usually takes up to three days for it to reach the countryside and northern areas of the country.
The Pyongyang Times
The Pyongyang Times is a weekly English and French language publication that mainly carries translations of Rodong Sinmum articles. It can be found in hotel lobby’s of the capital, landmarks, book shops and aboard Air Koryo flights in and out of the country.
The page structure is similar to the Rodong but with more emphasis on negative stories towards South Korea, Japan, the United States and other states considered hostile to the DPRK.
There are also a few small specialised newspapers in North Korea. One is the Kyoyuk shinmun (Education newspaper), which is aimed at school teachers. Articles range from pieces on the Leader to how to teach certain school topics in more effective ways.
The Kyoyuk shinmun is unique from other newspapers in that it is more educational & practical than ideological.
North Korea’s biggest overseas newspaper is the Choson Sinbo (Korean News). It’s published by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) They make up the DPRK’s representative office in Tokyo. These Koreans are a powerful block in Japan who swear allegiance to the DPRK despite being born and raised in Japan.
The Choson Sinbo is much less ideological than the Rodong Sinmun as it is published in Japan & must cater to a domestic audience there. It mainly promotes DPRK economic and foreign policy to an informed, international audience.
Other Sources of Information
It’s easy to think that newspapers in North Korea are not popular with locals, as they mostly promote party policies and the same old thing daily. On the contrary though, many North Koreans read newspapers cover to cover. The papers serve as one of the few channels through which they can learn about what’s happening in the outside world. Plus, they have very few other options to read news.
North Korea is near the bottom of the global press freedom index and very little independent media penetrates the system. Government censored newspapers, intranet, television and Radio are basically the only sources of information.
The tight grip is slowly loosening however with access to foreign radio, DVDs and UBD drives increasing across the country despite the risks involved in acquiring them.
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