The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of the worlds’ most authoritarian regimes, tightly controls information and strictly prohibits independent journalism.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the government’s official mouthpiece, is the only permitted news source for North Korea’s media. The regime tightly controls the production and distribution of information and strictly prohibits independent journalism. A few foreign press agencies such as Agence-France Presse (AFP) and Kyodo News are officially present in the country but operate under close surveillance, which impairs their reporting ability.
Kim Jong-un, son and grandson of late dictators Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, is the supreme leader of a totalitarian regime that bases its power on surveillance, repression, censorship and propaganda. He personally ensures that the media only imparts content that praises the party, the military, and himself.
Article 67 of North Korea's constitution enshrines freedom of the press, but the regime systematically tramples on this principle.
North Korea has a centrally planned economy but, after economic mismanagement in recent years, the state has had to loosen its grip on the private economy. More than 400 private markets (Jangmadang) are said to be in operation across the country, which facilitates the distribution of information among its citizens. Popular South Korean TV shows and films are often distributed on USB thumb drives despite the harsh penalties given to those caught consuming outside information.
The regime has allowed a widespread adoption of mobile phones, including smartphones, but has developed technical measures which allow it to completely control communications within the country’s intranet. North Koreans can still be sent to a concentration camp for looking at an online media outlet based outside the country.
As a result of the regime’s desire for complete isolation from the world, journalists have been arrested, deported, sent to forced labour camps, and killed for deviating from the party’s narrative. In 2017, the government even sentenced South Korean journalists to death in absentia for only commenting on the country’s economic and social situation.