North Korea may have sent an official delegation of athletes, Kim Jong-un’s sister, and a large group of identically dressed female “cheerleaders” to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but an ordinary citizen of the communist country has yet to have access to any coverage of the events.
The website 38 North, a North Korean watchdog group, reported on Monday:
It was no surprise that Korean Central Television hasn’t carried the opening ceremony or any Olympics coverage live. KCTV rarely broadcasts anything live except for major parades and fireworks at new year. Even the party congress in 2016, a major political event, was shown on tape-delay and it opted for a delayed broadcast for last week’s parade.
In previous years, coverage has lagged by a couple of days so I was expecting to see something on Sunday, but Sunday came and went with nothing but the usual schedule of old movies, kids shows, documentaries about the Kim family and science programs.
Even the weekly international sports news on Sunday night didn’t mention the Olympics.
The North Korean government controls all television and radio broadcasts, and live broadcasts are almost non-existent, according to Jean H. Lee, a global fellow with the Wilson Center and a former journalist who set up Associated Press’ bureau in Pyongyang in 2011, who spoke to CNBC.
“North Korea likes to have as much control as they can over what their people see,” Lee told CNBC. “They don’t like the unpredictability of live broadcasts, except for events that are completely scripted, like military parades.”
Lee said the state-controlled media allows recorded clips of international sporting events and might do so for the Olympics.
“That means North Koreans do get to see what it looks like outside their country to a small degree, including all the advertisements and the fans in the stands,” Lee said.
In fact, freedom of information is so scarce in North Korea that the country ranks the lowest out of 180 countries listed in order of press freedom, according to Reporters without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
As with other states where the media is state-controlled, the North Korean regime views broadcasting mainly as a means through which to disseminate propaganda and to extol the benefits and might of the state.
CNBC cited a 2016 U.S. State Department report on human rights abuses and censorship in North Korea, including a death sentence for viewing foreign films:
There are no independent media in the country; all media are strictly censored and no deviation from the official government line is tolerated. The government allows no editorial freedom; all stories are centrally directed and reviewed to ensure that they are in line with the state ideology. The government also controls academic and cultural content. Authorities prohibit listening to foreign media broadcasts and take steps to jam foreign radio broadcasts. Various ministries are responsible for modifying television and radio equipment to prevent users from accessing material from overseas and other material deemed illegal by the government. Individuals accused of viewing foreign films are reportedly subject to imprisonment or even execution.
Kim Yo-jong, praised by the left and the media for her “charm offensive” during her visit to the Olympics, is director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department for Workers’ Party of Korea, which oversees the state-run media. That media slammed U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in an article published on Monday.
The article, titled “Despicable Act of Abusing Sacred Olympics for Confrontation Plot” said, in part:
Pence let out a torrent of abuse pointing an accusing finger at the others’ event, instead of just sitting to watch it as a guest. His behavior is nothing but an ugly sight being reminded of crazy Trump.
We never sent the high-level delegation to south Korea in order to create the possibility of a dialogue with Americans by meeting them who are not worth human beings.
We do not do such mean and nasty things like the U.S. abusing such sports festival as Olympics for a political purpose.
We are ready for a variety of plans to cope with any attempts of the U.S., such as military strike, sanctions and pressure and confrontational racket.
Pence must know that his frantic acts of abusing the sacred Olympics for confrontational ruckus are as foolish and stupid an act as sweeping the sea with a broom.
CNN reported that the North Korean delegation returned home on Sunday “ending a three-day visit that amounted to a remarkable diplomatic breakthrough for the South Korean government but left big questions about whether it could lead to a solution to the decades-long military standoff between the two nations.”
Despite favorable coverage in the South Korean media that largely ignored the horrors inflicted on North Koreans by Kim’s regime, many ordinary South Koreans were skeptical of the North’s motives.
Hundreds of protestors gathered in Seoul on Sunday to vent their anger at what they called the “Pyongyang Games.” Some burned North Korean flags and photos of Kim Jong Un at the rally.
One protester, whom CNN identified as Laila, said:
“She (Kim Yo Jong) is not charming, she is a dictator’s sister,” Laila said. “She is not looking after North Korean people. They have people hungry in North Korea.”