Home > News > Regional
Friday January 10, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday January 10, 2014 MYT 11:01:37 AM
In the news: A man showing a report on the exhibition basketball match in a North Korean newspaper. -AFP
SEOUL: Determining whether stories about North Korea are true or false means delving into a very wide, grey area where the genuinely surreal mixes confusingly with the patently absurd.
For example, which of these reports about leader Kim Jong-Un appears – at least on paper – the more likely?
That he executed his uncle by feeding him naked to a pack of starving dogs, or that his birthday celebrations in Pyongyang were led by a serenade from a former cross-dressing, NBA all-star with a penchant for facial piercings and celebrity wrestling?
The latter is borne out by a YouTube video showing ex-Chicago Bulls guard Dennis Rodman’s off-tune rendition of “Happy Birthday” before an exhibition basketball match watched by Kim on Wednesday.
On the other hand, the death-by-dog story, which was picked up by some international media, was apparently based on a satirical tweet posted on a Chinese website. This was then picked up by Chinese newspaper Wen Wei Po, leading to shocked headlines in the Western media.
Differentiating fact from fiction is particularly difficult when it comes to North Korea given the country’s profound isolation, which makes any story not sanctioned by its highly secretive regime almost impossible to verify.
At the same time, international interest in what goes on in North Korea is enormous, especially when it comes to sensational stories that satisfy a widespread perception of the country as brutal, backward and bizarre.
These factors combine to create a cavernous media echo chamber that provides resonance and substance to rumour and speculation.
Elements can then be cherry-picked and put together into a sensational news item, as happened with the rumours swirling around Kim’s purge and execution of his uncle and political mentor Jang Song-Thaek last month.
A number of these elements originated from the mainstream South Korean media and North Korean defector-run websites – both of which, analysts note, have a vested interest in painting the North and its leadership as a source of unimaginable horror.
Choi Jung-Hoon, director of the Free North Korea radio station in Seoul, said the media frenzy surrounding Jang’s execution had proved particularly fertile ground.
“News from such a closed country like the North still remains limited ... leaving unconfirmed speculation to fill the void,” Choi, himself a defector, said. — AFP
Tags / Keywords:
N. Korea repatriates rare S. Korea defector
South Korea to hike cigarette price by 80%
North Korea ratchets up 'hostage diplomacy' with US
Australian man isolated in Ebola scare
NEA: Expect more hazy conditions
Authorities order evacuation as Philippines’ most active volcano stirs
Thai cops hunt island killer
Indonesia to ratify haze agreement
Thai police question 3 Myanmar men over murder of British pair
Thai woman perishes after leap into crocodile pond
Cops hunt for man who tried to steal from cash deposit machine
Apple gets its way as U.S. court throws out US$368mil patent award
Free toll charges to commemorate celebration
Copyright © 1995-2014 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)