N.Korea's Brave Underground Journalists Make Headlines

      January 25, 2011 12:13

      Rimjingang, "the only publication written by North Koreans, about North Korea, for consumption by the outside world" is "emblematic of the challenges to the regime of Kim Jong-il posed by technology, the Economist wrote Sunday.

      In an article titled "Not the Pyongyang Times -- Journalism that carries the death penalty," the weekly focuses on North Korean media that divulge the realities in the closed country to the outside world at the risk of life to the reporters. It homes in on Rimjingang, named after the river that flows from North to South Korea into the West Sea, which is published in Japan with contributions from North Koreans. A bi-monthly current affairs magazine first published in 2007, it aims to let the rest of the world know what is going on in the communist state. It is published in Korean, Japanese and English.

      In this screen grab from a program shown on KBS in April last year, a gaunt North Korean woman in her 20s rummages through barren fields in search of food. Asiapress of Japan, which took the footage, later told the online newspaper Daily NK that the woman starved to death. /Yonhap

      The magazine has eight North Korean reporters, from a factory worker to a civil servant. They secretly learned voice and video recording techniques in China and returned to North Korea to report on dire reality there. Their pictures and clips are sent via China to Japan, where publisher Asiapress is headquartered.

      Rimjingang shocked the world with a video clip of a gaunt woman in her 20s rummaging through a barren winter field in search of food. The clip was picked up by the Daily Telegraph in the U.K. and in South Korea. The Economist said the North Korean regime may be threatened by technological progress as "reports can be carried across the border on memory sticks, or transmitted via Chinese mobile phones that pick up signals on the North Korean side of the Yalu River."

      The weekly also reports on Buddhist aid group Good Friends, Open Radio for North Korea based in the U.S., and Free North Korea Radio founded by North Korean defectors. Free North Korea Radio received the 2008 Media of the Year prize by the international media freedom pressure group Reporters Without Borders.

      "Perhaps the greatest force for change remains pirated DVDs from China. Though not a part of any deliberate effort to subvert the system, they mean that nearly everyone has seen South Korean soap operas and knows how prosperous Seoul really looks," the Economist said.

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