AP opens first Western news bureau in North Korea

Associated Press has become the first Western news organisation to open a news bureau in North Korea.

It will expand on the 2006 breakthrough that saw AP open a video bureau in the capital, Pyongyang, and will supply copy, picture and video coverage.

The announcement comes less than a month after the death of Kim Jong-il who was succeeded as North Korea’s leader by his third son, Kim Jong-un.

It comes after a year of talks with the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), in whose headquarters the AP bureau will be based.

AP president and CEO Tom Curley said: “Beyond this door lies a path to vastly larger understanding and cultural enrichment for millions around the world.

‘Regardless of whether you were born in Pyongyang or Pennsylvania, you are aware of the bridge being created today,” he said.

Curley stressed that the Pyongyang bureau will operate according to the same standards and principles as it does in all its bureaux.

‘We pledge to do our best to reflect accurately the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as what they do and say,” he said.

North Korea has no diplomatic links with the West and has been inaccessible to international journalists for decades.

KCNA president Kim Pyong Ho said: “Even though our two countries do not have normalised relations, we have been able to find a way to understand one another and to cooperate closely enough to open an AP bureau here in Pyongyang as we have today.”

The move comes during a period of uncertainty following the change of leadership in North Korea and intense diplomatic activity with South Korea and the United States.

Working at the bureau will be reporter Pak Won II and photographer Kim Kwang Hyon, North Korean natives who covered Kim Jong-il’s funeral for AP.

American AP journalists Jean H Lee and David Guttenfelder will also report from the country, managing the office and training local journalists.

AP operates in over 100 countries and employs nearly 2,500 journalists across the world in 300 locations.

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