“From a small and crowded office in a Seoul backstreet, Park In-Ho shines a light on one of the most closed and secretive nations on earth. His Internet newspaper Daily NK is one of about a dozen South Korean organizations collecting news about North Korea, through sources inside the hardline communist state and contacts or staffers in neighboring China,” Agence France Presse reports:
“We wanted to let people here and abroad know how ordinary North Koreans live and think, a subject which has often been ignored by South Korean media,” said Park, 40, the Daily NK publisher.
The fugitives in China are “crucial assets” as their relatives and friends back home are the main source of information. But he would not discuss newsgathering operations, to protect his sources.
“Our operation is risky,” he said. Inside the North, “Pyongyang regards our secret sources within its system as spies and is desperate to discover their identities”, he told AFP.
The website now gets about 100,000 hits a day from people including government officials, scholars and journalists, he said.
Apart from advertising revenue it relies on donations from the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit foundation sponsored by the US Congress, to fund about 30 percent of its operations.
The North’s regime is losing its iron grip on media, according to a new report.
North Koreans are learning more about the outside world than at any time since the state’s founding, according to A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment, a path-breaking report from Intermedia.
“In 2012, North Koreans can get more outside information, through more types of media, from more sources, than ever before and they are less fearful of sharing that information than ever before,” says the U.S. State Department-commissioned study.
“Advanced media technologies such as mobile phones, computers, MP3 players and USB drives, have begun to make their way into North Korea in substantial numbers, particularly among the elites,” the study observes:
Since the mid-2000s, the field of broadcasters into North Korea has expanded. In addition to official government-funded stations such as Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Korean Broadcasting System, independent broadcasters, some of which are funded by the U.S. government through DRL and the National Endowment for Democracy, such as Open Radio for North Korea, Radio Free Chosun (see video above) North Korea Reform Radio and Free North Korea Radio, also broadcast into North Korea.
The Pyongyang regime’s attempt to block external information “has not been so successful because of a growing appetite among North Korean people for news about the outside world”, said Kim Ik-Hwan, secretary general of Open Radio.
“Public allegiance to the regime is getting weaker and money counts for a lot there due to corruption, which is rampant and far more serious than we think,” he said.
Open Radio’s 20-member crew, including five defectors, relies on donations from NGOs and the NED to fund its daily broadcasts for five hours from 10 pm, AFP reports.