Volume = Eleven

Every New Year’s Day, the Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea (North Korea to you and me) issues its annual New Year’s message  —North Asia’s equivalent of the U.S. President’s State of the Union address.   Since it’s otherwise a slow news day, this usually ensures press coverage –which is exactly what Kim Jong-Il has in mind.   However, the Dear Leader never bargained for Lunghu’s incisive analysis of this news coverage  –a historiography of sorts, before history is even made.   Today’s analysis examines three interpretive perspectives on North Korea’s New Year’s statement:  Asian (South Korean), European (French) and North American (United States).   Let’s compare and contrast.

Yonhap News Agency
31 paragraphs

  • 1 summary (lead) paragraph [S] (3%)
  • 13 quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK editorial [E] (42%)
  • 11 providing context/background [B] (36%)
  • 4 providing reaction/commentary [C] (13%)
  • 2 providing explanatory analysis [A] (6%)

here’s the semantic structure of the Yonhap story:

S-E-B-B-E-E-C
E-B-B-E-B-B-E-E-E-B-E-E
C-C-C-B-A-A-B-E-B-E-E-B

11 DPRK message themes cited (in order of appearance):

  • Renewed pledge for denuclearization.
  • Confrontation between north and south should be defused
  • War will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.” …War was averted [in 2010] because of “our persevering efforts.
  • Create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation.
  • End South Korea’s military exercises and alignment with “U.S. war hawks.”
  • DPRK is “consistent in its stand and will to achieve peace … and the denuclearization of the whole Korean Peninsula.
  • Development of light industry is the “major front” in improving standards of living for North Korea’s people.
  • 2012 “will greet the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il-sung. … We should launch an all-out, vigorous offensive for a breakthrough to realize the wish of the President to build a prosperous country.
  • Call for a boost in the production of “primary consumer goods and other necessities widely used in life. … light industry should turn out commodities that would be favored by people.”
  • [The September 2010 KWP party conference] demonstrated “a spirit of single-hearted unity to invariably defend the center of unity and leadership despite the passage of time.
  • DPRK military should “conduct intense combat training… as required by the tense situation;”  the North will not pardon an act of invasion “even an inch.

Analyst quoted:   Chung Seong-chang, senior analyst at the Sejong Institute

Explanatory themes:   DPRK is seeking to reduce its isolation by presenting an open-minded stance on inter-Korean dialogue [CS-C]

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Agence France-Presse
26 paragraphs

  • 1 summary (lead) paragraph [S] (4%)
  • 10 quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK editorial [E] (38%)
  • 9 providing context/background [B] (35%)
  • 1 providing reaction/commentary [C] (4%)
  • 5 providing explanatory analysis [A] (19%)

here’s the semantic structure of the AFP story:

S-E-B-B-B-E-E-B
A-B-E-E-B-C-E-E-B
A-B-B-B-A-A-A-E-E

5  DPRK message themes cited (in order of appearance):

  • Confrontation between north and south should be defused …dialogue and cooperation should be promoted.
  • Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation …by placing the common interests of the nation above anything else.
  • DPRK is committed to denuclearization, but South Korea’s “North-targeted war exercises and arms build-up” must stop.
  • War will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.
  • Focus on improving living standards in North Korea: “We should bring earlier the bright future of a thriving nation by making continuous innovations and advance, full of confidence in victory.” [Kim Jong-Il]

Analysts quoted:  Professor Yang Moo-Jin at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies/ Hong Hyun-Ik and Chung Seong-chang at the Sejong Institute.

Explanatory themes:  DPRK is seeking regional stability in order to accomplish its internal regime succession / DPRK is awaiting outcome of January’s China-US summit [YM-J];  DPRK wants to reduce tension to achieve its goal of improving DPRK living standards [CS-C]/ DPRK is expecting (i.e, demanding) renewed 6-party negotiations to result from the China-US summit [HH-I].

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Bloomberg
14 paragraphs

  • 1 summary (lead) paragraph [S] (7%)
  • 6 quoting/paraphrasing the DPRK editorial [E] (43%)
  • 6 providing context/background [B] (43%)
  • zero providing reaction/commentary [C]
  • 1 providing official reaction in the form of explanatory analysis [A=C] (7%)

here’s the semantic structure of the Bloomberg story:

S-E-E-B-B-E
A=C-E-B-E
B-B-E-B

5  DPRK message themes cited (in order of appearance):

  • The danger of war should be removed and peace safeguarded in the Korean Peninsula … war will bring nothing but a nuclear holocaust.
  • South Korea blamed for “reckless and wild behavior” by carrying out military exercises.
  • Confrontation between north and south should be defused …dialogue and cooperation should be promoted.
  • South Korea accused of sabotaging relations for publicizing its reunification plans.
  • DPRK is “consistent in its stand and will to achieve peace … and the denuclearization of the whole Korean Peninsula.

“Analyst” quoted:  unnamed ROK Unification Ministry official.

Explanatory themes: DPRK is seeking humanitarian aid by calling for dialogue and cooperation / DPRK is attempting to promote internal dissension within ROK.

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Lunghu’s Meta-analysis:

Yonhap’s treatment of this story provides the most nutritious protein:  thirteen paragraphs citing actual verbiage from the DPRK New Year’s message.   Their story is somewhat light on explicit explanatory analysis of what that verbiage might actually mean, but perhaps Yonhap’s core readership is capable of doing its own analysis and doesn’t need intermediary pundits to help them read between the lines.   Lunghu likes a news service that respects the intelligence of its customers.   By using a series of implicit and explicit cues to its readers, Yonhap highlights 4 themes embedded in the DPRK New Year’s message:  desire for peace (45%), bellicose militancy (18%), economic development (27%), and internal regime succession (9%).

The AFP story is less extensive than Yonhap’s and provides correspondingly smaller portions of nutritious protein.   As Frenchmen, they compensate by furnishing a particularly tasty sauce —in the form of explanatory analysis from three subject matter experts at (somewhat) prestigious institutions.   Should the reader interpret this as some sort of elitist predilection for technocratic expertise within the French Fourth Estate?   Perhaps.   But it just may mean that AFP readers are not expected to be as attuned to the nuances of novel information as Koreans might be:   such readers therefore require more explicit guidance.   AFP’s presentation and analysis highlights the same 4 themes as Yonhap:   desire for peace (50%), bellicose militancy (17%), economic development (17%), and hereditary regime succession (17%).   In addition, it provides the extra special bonus of closing its story with a quote from Kim Jung-Il.

Bloomberg’s approach to the story is All-American in a high-fat, fast food kinda way.   It’s less than half the length of Yonhap’s article, contains virtually no analysis worth of the name, and has equal proportions of news (DPRK statements) vs. background material.   Filler plus fat is neither tasty nor nutritious.   The only commentary or “analysis” provided is furnished by an unnamed spokesman at a South Korean government ministry:  this pretty clearly qualifies as “spin” rather than as objective observations of any kind.   Bloomberg’s story focuses only on the military dimensions of the DPRK statement, highlighting language about nuclear holocaust and DPRK’s attempts to blame South Korea for deterioration in relations.   Further evidence that no one should invest any money on the basis of a Bloomberg story.

If any readers of Waking the Dragon want higher-quality information about North Korea than is available through most U.S media, Lunghu recommends North Korea Economy Watch as a useful starting point.   Make it your New Year’s resolution to visit at least once!

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