The North’s Mass Media: the Newspaper
Newspapers act as a medium of communication for the masses, keeping the population up-to-date on current events and news. This issue of Eyes of Pyongyang will examine the types and functions of North Korea’s newspapers, and their differences to those of South Korea.
With increased interactions between the two Koreas, South Korean newspapers have regularly published materials on North Korean issues. It can be inferred that with unification, media will undergo several transformations in response to the change in the country’s political arena; however, it is then important to examine the structure of media in the two Koreas. While there are many forms of media, such as radio and television, this article will examine one of the longest standing forms of mass communication, the newspaper.
North Korean media’s Juche ideology is built on a Marxist-Leninst foundation. Media entrepreneurship in North Korea has been coopted to enforce the socialist revolution, inherited from Kim Il Sung’s leadership. The freedom of North Korea’s press is different from democratic-capitalist societies, in that it advertises stability to be fundamentally driven from socialist systems.
The major national daily newspapers in North Korea include: Roh-Dong, Youth Avant-Garde, Minju Choson, with local newspapers in different provinces. North Korean newspapers are published under strict supervision, with Roh-Dong acting as the means to defend North Korea’s stance on its foreign affairs. Roh-Dong was established on November 1, 1945 – making it the country’s first major publication. Its front page is always decorated with editorials and articles on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il, with its second page filled with articles specializing on foreign affairs. The content of the third page touches upon economic issues, and the fourth page covers North Korean delegation’s official activities. The fifth and the sixth page examines South Korean current issues, the relationship between the peninsula, domestic news and commentaries on unification. Roh-Dong’s contents are made up of materials biased to the Party and its ideology, and the culture of socialism. Unlike South Korean newspapers whose main purpose is to deliver the ‘news’ and to criticize the structure, North Korean publications operate on the basis of government propaganda with contents praising the Kim Leadership and affiliated Party activities. This can be seen particularly through the framing of Kim Jung Un’s site visits.
In contrast, South Korean publications are founded upon news-reporting and promotion of public opinions. Through alerting the masses on a variety of information, South Korean newspapers have increased their contents size from 8 to 70 pages. Further, there are approximately 324 registered daily newspapers, with a variety of weekly, monthly and online publications.
The Joongang Daily, established on September 22, 1965, is currently representative of South Korea’s conservative demographic, along with Dong-A Daily News and Chosun Ilbo. On the other hand, Hankyoreh, established on May 15, 1988, is part of South Korea’s ‘One’ liberal media, along with the Kyunghyang Daily News.
While the tone of South Korea’s newspapers can vary, much of their contents examine similar issues such as politics, society, economy, cultures, world, and editorials, and provide diverse types of information through weekly sectional publications.
Further, a sizeable portion of South Korea’s newspapers is occupied by advertisements, due to their huge promotional opportunities. Publication agencies can also lower the costs of newspapers through advertisement profits, and thus, increase the viewership with increased affordability.
South Korean newspapers’ editing process occur on the basis of context, proportion, structure, balance and contrast. The significance of the articles’ contents can determine their positions and size within the newspaper layout. Currently, newspapers are also divided into off-line and online contents, with increased accessibility to graphs and photographs. Further, the overall political tone varies per newspaper – along with the liberalization of the media, there exists increased options available for the audience.
Thus while publications in North and South Korea are both categorized as newspapers, there exists disparities between the contents. North Korean newspapers are unique in that there seems to be a complete lack of advertisements and reporting on structural critiques and societal deviance. Then, one cannot help but wonder, in such context, how will media transform upon the unification of the two Koreas.