A Content Analysis of International News on North Korean Central TV: New Leadership’s Perception of the World

A Content Analysis of International News on North Korean Central TV: New Leadership’s Perception of the World

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   A Content Analysis of International News on North Korean Central TV:  New Leadership’s Perception of the World  Soo-Keung Jung  M.A. student, Georgia State University Sookeung.jung@gmail.com Summary  This study analyzes the characteristics of international news on North Korean Central TV. Based on a content analysis, the paper examines which international issues the NKC TV focuses on and how and why the NKC TV introduces the news selected. Byusing earlier studies on news selection in other countries, this study compares theinternational news content on NKC TV and examines differences and similarities inits news values. Additionally, the relationships between political power and the press in North Korea are discussed from the perspective of foreign policy. This studydiscovers the following: the international news program tends to place importanceon the Third World and socialist countries rather than the First World; the news frames show the First World negatively and the Second and Third Worlds positively;the news itself justifies the regime’s policies through cordial reports of foreign news for themselves; and the news reveals the new leader’s interests and intentions. Keywords: North Korean Central TV, international news, foreign policy, Kim JongUn, gatekeeping, news values  Journal of Peace and Unification , Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 2013, pp. 97-132.© 2013 by Ewha Institute of Unification Studies  I. INTRODUCTION North Korean Central TV, the national broadcaster to domestic and overseasaudiences, is nearly the only means to show North Korean society to the outside world. The NKC TV channel is one of the most important media for the study of North Korean journalism. The international news on NKC TV provides anopportunity to analyze the leadership’s perception of the world and NorthKorean journalism’s news values.Little research has been done on North Korea’s media system and jour-nalism. South Korean researchers have produced intermittent studies dealing with the current state of North Korean media, but these studies have not beenorganized systematically (Kang 1997; Kim 1998; Lee 1999). Moreover, it ishard to find an empirical study about the international news of the NorthKorean news media and about the overall patterns and the nature of interna-tional news in the North Korean media.North Korean television broadcasting has changed dramatically sincethe ascendancy of Kim Jong Un in 2010. In particular, NKC TV news has been transformed in content and form. One of the noticeable changes is theremodeling of the main news studio in fall 2012 ( Yonhap News 12 September2012). The new studio was decorated in tones of silver and the announcer satagainst the backdrop of “multivision.” Also, the teleprompter was a new toolnot used previously and enabled the announcers to stare straight into thescreen while delivering news. This change was not the first time. In spring2012, NKC TV replaced the main anchorwoman with a young womanannouncer, and the news screen was enhanced with a variety of graphics andextended video clips ( Yonhap News 13 March 2012).In terms of news items, it has remarkably enhanced economic and scien-tificreports. By reporting foreign short messages with related video clips,NKC TV has introduced other countries’ technological development to NorthKoreans. In addition, it is worth noting that NKC TV is reporting internationalsports news again. South Korean analysts evaluate these changes as one of the governmental strategies of the new leader (Lee 2011, 191).This research analyzes the contents of international news on NKC TV toexamine which issues North Korean authorities focus on in the world news, 98  A Content Analysis of International News on North Korean Central TV   how they introduce the selected news to the public, and why they choose thatnews. Based on the earlier studies on gatekeeping in the Western countriesand South Korea, the research compares the international news content onNKC TV and examines differences and similarities in their news values. Inaddition, the relationships between political power and the press in NorthKorea will be discussed from the perspective of international communication.Through the analysis on the international news of NKC TV, this study can investigate how often the international news section is broadcast, whatpatterns and rules the international news section has, and how North Koreanauthorities utilize international news as material for propaganda or indoctri-nation of the public. The results show that the international news on NKC TV,as an ideological apparatus, reflects the recent changes in foreign policy of thenew leader, Kim Jong Un, aiming at the successful control and mobilizationof the people. II. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK   1. Theories about News Selection and News Values  Although TV news is the product of multiple sources of input, journalists andtheir organizations are in charge of the final news production. Depending onthe level of gatekeeping, existing studies on the news selection process can be classified among three theoretical perspectives: journalist-centered gate-keeping, organization-centered gatekeeping, and external/social institutionalgatekeeping (Hirsh 1977; Cohen, Adoni & Bantz 1990; Shoemaker 1991).Despite being different theoretical approaches, what these three models havein common is that they focus on process-oriented perspectives on the newsand put stress on the relationships of diverse factors.David Mann White, who pioneered the first gatekeeping study in jour-nalism, asserted that news was made by individual journalists who chose andinterpreted the events or issues (White 1950). Organization-centered gate-keeping theory started from recognizing the limitations of the oversimplified journalist-centered model. These theorists assumed that news was produced  Soo-Keung Jung  99  through organized and institutionalized work under the restrictions of timeand resources (McQuail 1991). External/social institutional gatekeeping theory focused on the factors outside the newsroom, such as influence of dominantgroups, audiences’ attention, autonomy from political groups or advertisers,and ideology of the ruling class (Gitlin 1980; Turow 1984).From the perspectives of gatekeeping theories, news selection of NorthKorean media can fall into the external/social institutional gatekeeping cate-gory, because the media are controlled by political power. According to  FourTheories of the Press , which contains a treatise on press free from governmentconstraint, the North Korean media system is generally included in the “SovietCommunist” model. Wilbur Schramm, Frederick Siebert, and TheodorePeterson identified four types of media: the Authoritarian type, where thegovernment controlled the press through censorship and punishment; theSoviet Communist type, which took note of the governmental control and theresponsibility of the press based on Marxism; the Libertarian type, whosefeature is the absence of government control and a free press working under laissez faire ; and the Social Responsibility type, which emphasized socialresponsibility of the press rather than freedom of the press (Schramm,Siebert, and Peterson 1956). While the North Korean media was rooted in Marxism-Leninism, thenature of the media has significantly changed since the party congress took  juche ideology (self-reliance ideology) as its guiding theory in 1970. Basically,a communist system takes advantage of the press as a means for propagandaand agitation. North Korean media has also the same nature as a communistpress at this point. However, presenting the slogan, “Apply Kim Il Sung’sprinciples to the whole society and all the Party” (Kim 1994a, 443), the NorthKorean media began to be differentiated from other socialist countries. AfterKim Jong Il became a secretary of Department of Propaganda and Agitationin 1973, he defined the mission of the press as making all members of thesociety into Kim Il Sung ideologists, remodeling society according to Kim IlSung’s demands, and contributing to the “great achievement of independence”(Kim 1994b, 151). Gauging the fairness and objectivity of North Korean media before the changes implemented by Kim Jong Il is difficult. The line and policy of the leaders became the most important criterion for news selection. 100  A Content Analysis of International News on North Korean Central TV   North Korean media are affiliated with Department of Propaganda and Agitation in the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee. Constitu-tionally, the North Korean Worker’s Party is the highest revolutionary organi-zation among all the working masses’ groups. North Korean media are sys-tematically controlled by the Party, which controls all authorities, humanresources, and finances. Thus, North Korean media are more like an organ of the Party rather than the press. As a propaganda organization of the Party, North Korean media has itsown news values. Kim Il Sung presented four elements of the news: parti-sanship, class-consciousness, focusing on the people, and militancy (  Jeongchi  Sajeon [Politics Encyclopedia]  1973, 1203). That is, North Korean newsemphasizes the role of the press as an aggressive participant and organizerto indoctrinate and mobilize the people.These elements are a striking contrast from the news values of the Westernmedia: timeliness, relevance, importance, impact/consequence, interest, conflict/controversy, sensationalism, prominence and novelty/exceptionalism(McQuail 1985). Pamela J. Shoemaker, Lucig H. Danielian, and Nancy Brendlinger (1991) added the notion of “deviance” exposed frequently to the Western media, which means an incident breaking the customs and norms of society. These news values have also influenced the international news reportactivities (Galtung and Rug 1965; Larson 1979; Lichtenberg 1991). As opposed to a lack of the studies on international news analysis of NorthKorean media, there have been diverse studies on international newsroomand correspondents, difference of news coverage between countries, and factorsaffecting international news coverage, among other issues. This research has been actively conducted in earnest since the 1990s alongside the progress of internationalization or globalization.By comparing the newsrooms of KBS, SBS, and CNN through participantobservation research, Park Chun Il (1995) presented that the news-selectionprocess of CNN as self-regulating, multi-national, and commercialized, whereasSouth Korean newsrooms emphasized collective responsibility, domestic-oriented items, and an amicable relationship with government. Kim SungHae and colleagues (2011) introduced the characteristics of internationalnews in the world’s major countries. They analyze diversity of news forms  Soo-Keung Jung  101
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