Read the Official Newspaper of North Korea’s Ruling Party

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 11 2012 11:22 AM

Read the Official Newspaper of North Korea’s Ruling Party

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North Koreans read copies of a newspaper in a Metro railway station in downtown Pyongyang last April.

Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images

The Korea Times, an English-language South Korean newspaper, reports that Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party, “has launched an English-language website in an apparent attempt to expand its reach in the international community.” While the North Korean government has published a weekly tabloid in English, The Pyongyang Times, since 1965, the English-language edition of the daily paper is a new initiative, and possibly connected with the transition of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un.

David Haglund David Haglund

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

An analyst quoted by The Korea Times says the North Korean government hopes to “publicize its causes” with this English-language edition—but of course the site also allows readers of English around the world a glimpse into the bizarre view of the world proffered by the North Korean government to its people. (English-language readers who are not in South Korea, that is: That country, “with which the North is still technically at war, blocked the site within hours under the National Security Law, a Unification Ministry official said on condition of anonymity,” according to The Korea Times.)

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Here, for instance, is the wide world of sports as reported on by the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party:

A meeting of officials in the field of sports and sportsmen was held in the table-tennis stadium of Chongchun Street on January 5... The officials and sportspersons pledged themselves to glorify the DPRK as a famous football power and sports power, remaining true to the leadership of dear respected Kim Jong Un at the behest of Kim Jong Il....They evinced determination to dash ahead in the Paektu spirit of offensive and bring about a landmark phase in the development of sports... They stressed they would make the flames of Hamnam and the Paektu hot wind of training flare up fiercely and thus remarkably raise the physical and technical abilities and create new technique and playing methods of Korean style that help beat any strong rivals.
Mysterious snow fell at Mt. Paektu Secret Camp from 7 p.m. on Dec. 18 to 7 a.m. on 19. In general, snow falls from an overcast sky, but at Mt. Paektu Secret Camp snow fell from the starry sky all night. Local residents said Kim Jong Il was the heaven-born man and so the sky shed tears at the news of his demise... Even those who had been living there for a long time saw such a large scarlet glow for the first time. At the view of an unusual glow tinging the sky with deep and clear color, people said in excitement that even nature, unable to forget the heaven-born man, unfolded in the sky a red flag associated with the life of Kim Jong Il.

For news out of North Korea that does not aim primarily to glorify Kim Jong-un and his late father, English-language readers can turn to Rimjingang, produced by two editors and eight reporters who work under assumed names—though it appears that the most recent stories available on the website at the moment are from last July. As the Economist reported a year ago:

Rimjingang’s eight reporters are dotted about the totalitarian state; their backgrounds range from factory work to the civil service. In China they were trained in undercover recording techniques. And then they went home to begin their work. If caught, they surely face death.

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