North Korea; the Media and its Nuclear Program

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Submitted: December 05, 2010

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Submitted: December 05, 2010



North Korea is a country full of mystery and often fills people’s minds of curiosity and wonder. Part of North Korea’s legacy includes its Stalinist style communism, which is characterized by a totalitarian leader, secret police, propaganda, and especially brutal tactics of political force. This involves a totalitarian (defined as a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator who is not restricted by a constitution or laws) state with a dictatorial leader who has always maintained tight control over every aspect of the nation. All media outlets and broadcast stations are under state control and distribute only the approved agenda, always in terms of the “Great Leader”, Kim Jong Il. The control over the Internet is pretty difficult, so far the regime has been able to restrict Internet access but the ability to restrict it over the long-term future is not so clear. The use of mass media and propaganda to enhance the leader’s image and his power over society is part of Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist style communism in a totalitarian state.

First, the use of the Internet and the media is highly restricted to the public because of the government control tactics. There is restrictive Internet access across the nation and only a few of the government elite are connected to the Internet via a link to China. Kim Jong Il himself is said to love “surfing the net”. There is one Internet café in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea that uses a satellite Internet connection, as do some of the more up market hotels for travelers. Only a small number of government-authorized people are allowed to use the Internet, so all other people must use Kwangmyong, which is a North Korean internal nationwide network that opened in 2000. It provides email, restricted web access along with news and select services. In 2002 North Koreans, in collaboration with a South Korean company, started an online gambling site targeting South Korean customers, but since online gambling became illegal in South Korea the site has been shut down. As far as North Korean websites go North Korea, in 2007, launched its first online shop, Chollima, in a joint venture with an unnamed Chinese company. The website, which is named after a Korean mythical horse, provides news and information about economic policies and foreign trade (Media of North Korea). It also contains North Korea’s first online shop, which includes items for purchasing such as machinery, building materials, automobiles, health foods, music and films. In total, there are about 30 websites such as and run by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Uriminzokkiri is a website based on leadership and various articles from “Full of Confidence in Victory” to “Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung’s Works Vol. 72 Off Press”, the website is pretty much North Korea’s homepage.  KCCKP is the Pyongyang Times website with many links to various other websites. In total, South Korean police have identified 43 pro-North Korean websites that have foreign-based servers. These websites encourage hostile attitudes towards South Korea and western countries and portray the DPRK in a positive light.

Television in the North Korea is tightly controlled by the state. It’s often used as a propaganda arm of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party. In Pyongyang there are 4 television channels, while other cities only have 1 channel. The local channels in Pyongyang are the Korean Central TV, Mansudae Television (a cultural station only available in the capital), Korean Education and Cultural Network, and Kaesong Television (which targets South Korea) other stations are in major cities of Chongjin, Kaesong, Hamhung, Haeju and Sinuiju. State television is always off air until it’s 5PM evening news broadcast, except on Sundays when it starts at 6AM, and in emergency or live events. All televisions are imported Japanese-made color televisions that have a North Korean brand name superimposed, but nineteen-inch black and white sets have been produced locally since 1980. A recorded number of TV sets in use in the early 1990’s was 250,000.  All broadcast media in some ways promotes the regime’s ideologies and positions, such as juche (which teaches that “man is the master of everything and decides everything” and that the Korean people are the masters of Korea’s revolution). It regularly condemns actions by South Korea, Japan, Israel, the United States and other nations. The media in recent years condemns the United Nations, and its position against the country’s nuclear program. In recent years the North Korean media portrays the rest of the world as an “enemy”, and claims that every foreign nation is conspiring against the regime (Media of North Korea).

As part of the government’s information blockade policy, North Korean radios and televisions must be modified to receive only government stations. These modified radios should all be registered at a special state department. Radios are subject to inspection at random and removal of the office seal is punishable by law. In order to buy a radio (or a TV set), Korean citizens have to get special permission from the officials at places of their residence or employment. Visitors to North Korea are never permitted to bring radios and North Korea itself only has two AM radio broadcasting networks, Pyongyang Broadcasting Station (Radio Pyongyang) and Korean Central Broadcasting Station. There’s one FM network called, easily enough, the Pyongyang FM Broadcasting System. All three of these networks have stations in major cities and offer local programming. There is also a powerful shortwave transmitter for overseas broadcasts in foreign languages.

Recently, North Korea has been on the news stirring up issues such as North Korea’s nuclear centrifuges and the recent shelling on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Earlier in the month of November, North Korea claimed they have thousands of centrifuges operating at a previously undetected uranium enrichment facility. Although they claim that the plant is for “civil nuclear power”, it is not clear whether the centrifuges could be used to produce material for weapons. The news of the centrifuges came when tensions still remained high after the North shelled the South about two weeks ago. Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, says the shelling (which killed four people) was in response to Seoul’s military drill near the island of Yeonpyeong. The U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Washington, and four other U.S. navy vessels are being joined by South Korean destroyers, patrol vessels, frigates, support ships and anti-submarine aircraft. North Korea had at that point in time condemned the exercises as provocation. A statement form North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said, “If the U.S. brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea (Yellow Sea), no one can predict the ensuing consequences.”

The question is; if we don’t want another war- should we even be there? In my opinion, I don’t think we should have rushed into militia action so fast. If North Korea were to strike the USS George Washington, could we be the stronger, smarter country having learned from the past and just walk away? Or could it provoke the third World War? On the other hand I can understand the loyalty of the United States with it’ allies and our protection tactics. If we were not there to help out South Korea now, then why would be even bother being allies in the first place?

As far as the discovered centrifuges go, a North Korean news agency KCNA, referred to its Yongbyon nuclear complex as “actively building a light water reactor and in order to meet the demand, we are operating a modern uranium enrichment systems with many thousands of centrifuges.” This is the first time that North Korea has given any details about what it calls its “peaceful nuclear program”, and earlier this November a United States scientist, a family-friend of mine as well, Siegfried Hecker, visited Yongbyon and said he was “stunned” by the sophistication of the equipment he was shown. The North Koreans assured him the centrifuges were working, producing low enriched uranium, which would be used as fuel in an experimental light water nuclear reactor they were building. The North Koreans say they want the reactor to be operational by 2012; a target that Mr. Hecker says is pretty optimistic. Apparently, North Korea says they want to use the nuclear reactors to produce electricity, when Mr. Hecker went to visit the plant he did claim that the plant appeared to be intended for civilian nuclear purposes, however, he added that it could be modified to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) bomb fuel. This could be used for nuclear weapons, although a lot of work would have to be done to build warheads or produce a thermonuclear (relating to or using nuclear reactions that occur only at very high temperatures) device.

A little history of North Korea’s Nuclear Program goes like this, in October of 2006, North Korea became the world’s eighth atomic power conducting an underground nuclear weapons test. Although the country’s nuclear program and its development of long range rocket systems has outraged many, it is still unclear whether the country has mastered the ability to deliver a working nuclear weapon as of yet. Kim Jong Il’s dreams of a nuclear arsenal dates back half a century, to just after the Korean War. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father and North Korea’s founder, was completely aware that General Douglas MacArthur had requested nuclear weapons to use against his country during the conflict, and declassified documents show that he pressed his cold war allies- first, Russia, then China- for nuclear technology (North Korea’s Nuclear Program). It took so long, decades even, to put together the equipment, and it appears that only semi-recently did North Korea make a political decision to progress forwards.

The 2006 weapons test was also the product of more than two decades worth of diplomatic failure. American spy satellites saw North Korea building a good size nuclear reactor in the early 1980s and by the early 1990s the C.I.A. estimated that the country could have one or more nuclear weapons. On May 25, 2009, North Korea announced that they had successfully conducted its second nuclear test, again defying international warnings.

In the past couple months, the country engaged in many provocative actions believed to be tied to steps taken by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, to position his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as his successor (which usually doesn’t follow in a dictatorship whatsoever).

In March, a South Korean naval Vessel, the Cheonan, was sunk in the area and 46 sailors died. The incident badly frayed inter-Korean relations and Seoul blamed the sinking on a North Korean torpedo attack. Thus far, North Korea has denied any role in incident.

In conclusion, the use of mass media and propaganda to enhance the leader’s image and his power over society is part of Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist style communism in a totalitarian state. As far as the Internet, television, and radio go, all media outlets and broadcast stations are under state control and disseminate only the approved agenda, always in terms of the “Great Leader”. Trends in the future of the media could be more restricted access along with more encouragement of hostile attitudes towards non-allied countries. The importance of all this, especially in the past couple weeks with the recent shelling (ground-based artillery) on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, is cause for great concern since the dictatorship Kim Jong Il leads is violent and aggressive.  The historical impact, especially with the recent attacks on South Korea as well as North Korea’s confession to having nuclear centrifuges could be severe and traumatic and one can only hope that negotiations can be made with North Korea and the attacks will come to a standstill.


Works Cited

"BBC News - North Korea Claims 'thousands' of Nuclear Centrifuges." BBC - Homepage. 29 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. <>.

"BBC News - North Korea Country Profile." BBC News - Home. 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. <>.

Fisher, David. "North Korea and the Media." E-mail interview. 27 Oct. 2010.

"Internet in North Korea." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <>.

"Media of North Korea." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <>.

"North Korea's Nuclear Program." New York Times. 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Dec. 2010.

Powell, Bill. "North Korea's Mafia Moment - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - 30 Aug. 2010. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <,9171,2011933,00.html>.

"Telecommunications in North Korea." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <>.


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