Verify Your Sources: Delivering DPRK Issues

2018년 10월 07일 15시 30분

Most reporters consider fact-checking as one of the priority process they carry upon publishing an article. Would this responsibility be of a lower priority when dealing DPRK(Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), widely referred to as the most isolated country on the planet? Three remarkable groups of experts who use various techniques to conduct fact checking of official texts answer ‘no’ at Uncovering Asia 2018 on Oct. 6.

“Even if a news is believed to be 99% true, we should be interested in the 1%, the small contradiction from what is generally believed to be true,” Martin Weiser, independent researcher on North Korea noted. “This is especially so for DPRK news where the news released are mostly about propaganda, ideology & unimportant things with few bits of important information.”

DPRK Media is now chaotic, with increasing access to diverse DPRK media on both on and offline outlets. Amidst this situation, institutions that are less integrated into state propaganda, including those dealing with religion, person with disability, satellite parties- can be added to a possible access point.

Like in other socialist states, satellite parties became more active and outspoken during the 1980s in DPRK. For example, in September 1987, the KSDP magazine featured two articles urging party members to achieve better human rights protection with following statements:

“Our party can be called the ‘Party of Human Rights Protection.’”, “party organizers… have to examine all cases of rights violations that became known and bring forward those problems to national organs”, “adopting political, legal, and social measure to eradicate phenomena of human rights violations”

Build Network of Reliable Sources

As can be seen, DPRK is not an isolated state in terms of providing information. There are lots of materials out there. “DPRK is one of the quests in researching because it is difficult to verify information about the state,” noted Jenny Town, managing editor of 38 North. “Not many people try this, leading to limited coverage released and a lot of copycat reporting making situation out of control once rumors start to spread.”


As a solution to prevent such situation from happening and to pursue a diligent fact-checking process, Town suggested following guidelines to adhere to for reporters when citing information:

Build network of reliable sources. It is challenging for reporters to go to the archive and search for primary sources when covering their articles due to time constraints. But have an idea of who you can reach out to and whose sources you will look up to. If you start to know who to call and where to get your direct resources, you would be able to approach your facts in a methodical and responsible way.

Question everything. Reporters can become very vulnerable into falling to believe everything about DPRK is true as long as it is “good enough.” Question every fact you are provided with. How did you get the information? Is it really coming from an original source? This is especially so when it comes gaining information from North Korean defectors. Always question the varsity of your sources.

Expertise in one area does not necessarily imply expertise in other areas. For example security professionals can be willing to make comment on the diplomatic issues of North Korea since it is of similar issues. Careful not to give too much credits on what experts provide, judging only from their prestigious academic status.

Some might question the whole process of covering DPRK issues as the state has a strong control over its media. Yet, Keith Richburg, the session’s moderator and  states that knowing something is better than knowing nothing at all.

“Delving into North Korea issues is worth conducting even if the information you obtained came from a controlled source,” Richburg remarked. “As long as you realize that what your getting is a limited view, everything is worthwhile.”

report : Kim Kayoung