Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

KCNA gets another makeover

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

UPDATE 1 (2012-10-1):   Martyn Williams reports that the Chinese funded the renovation of KCNA’s equipment and appearance.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-9-9): This weekend KCTV updated their news format to give it a more modern appearance. See the videos bleow.

In recent years, the appearance of the the DPRK evening news has changed several times (following decades of the same unchanging format). See here and here to learn more about past changes at KCTV.

Martyn Williams provides additional details at North Korea Tech. See here and here.

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KCTV changes evening news format

Monday, March 12th, 2012

This weekend the DPRK changed the appearance and style of its evening news broadcast:

You can see the first news broadcast in this style on Youtube here.

Up until 2006 (I believe) the North Korean news broadcasters presented  in front of a plain blue screen:

In 2006 KCTV adopted a news format which placed the anchor persons in front of a background panel which was distinct and consistent for separate news items:

 

 

Martyn Williams offers some additional information here.

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KWP forms 4.15 gift preparation committees

Monday, March 5th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have ordered the formation of ‘Day of the Sun Gift Preparation Committees’ at the provincial Party level and subordinate ‘Day of the Sun Gift Subcommittees’ at the city and county scale, Daily NK has learned.

A Yangkang [Ryanggang] Province source who spoke with Daily NK on the 6th explained, “The ‘Day of the Sun Gift Preparation Committee’ was formed at the start of this month by the provincial Party Committee to prepare for the Suryeong’s birthday, and groups of areas were banded together to form the ‘Day of the Sun Gift Subcommittees’.”

“There was no distribution for February 16th,” the source recalled. “Possibly because the central Party received reports of popular discontent about this and asked some searching questions of provincial cadres, now they are running around trying to get ready for April 15th holiday distribution.”

“Enterprise traders are mostly bringing in soy bean oil, soap and towels via Chinese customs. They are printing ‘Day of the Sun 100th Anniversary’ on the towels,” he added.

The formation of the committees has also reportedly had a noticeable influence on levels of public expectation of the April 15th festivities, representing as it does the first time that ‘Gift Preparation Committees’ have been formed since they disappeared without a trace in the mid 1990s.

“They are already saying that each household is going to receive a huge gift for this Day of the Sun, so people are really expecting a lot,” the source said, adding, “The rumor among jangmadang traders is that every house is going to get a DVD player made by Hana Electronics in Pyongyang.”

As the source noted, the move comes following significant public discontent at the lack of gifts on February 16th (Kim Jong Il’s birthday).

On February 21st, Daily NK reported new of that discontent, citing a Yangkang Province source as saying, “There was a flood of criticism about the total lack of holiday distribution for Gwangmyungsung Day, so they began telling every organ, enterprise and people’s unit meeting, ‘That is because we are close to the 100th anniversary of the Suryeong’s birth, and the Party is preparing big gifts for that.’”

North Korea began giving snacks, rice and other foodstuffs to the people every year on the birthdays of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, along with things like school uniforms and blankets every 5th and 10th year, in the 1970s. However, the system ceased to function in the 1990s as the country was gripped by famine and economic disintegration.

Meanwhile, sources also report that with the arrival of the early spring lean season, a time when many people on the Korean Peninsula have traditionally struggled to find sufficient sustenance, prices in the market are beginning to creep up.

According to the Yangkang Province source, “Until late last week the Yuan price was 607 won, but now it is up to 635 won. The price of rice has also gone from 3,300 won to 3,800 won.”

Read the full story here:
North Forms Party 4.15 ‘Gift Preparation Committees’
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young
2012-3-5

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Pyongyang seeing more inspections

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

With the border area enveloped in ‘Storm Trooper Unit’ inspections, operations against South Korean goods have been stepped up in distant Pyongyang, according to a man from the city who talked to the Daily NK in Dandong, China on Tuesday.

“Inspections by ‘Group 109’, which has been around for a while, have gradually become more intense,” the man, Kim, explained. “Worst of all, they are showing up in the middle of the night without warning to search for CDs, DVDs and recorders, and if there are any materials such as pornography or South Korean merchandise, then the offender is taken away. There are no exceptions.”

“In the past when the National Security Agency or People’s Safety Ministry came to inspect, people would pay them to let it slide, but nowadays the authorities send an agent from both of those agencies and the Defense Security Command as a team, which makes it hard to get out of it if you get caught,” he added.

A Daily NK source from Pyongyang confirmed the story, saying that as recently as July one could escape Group 109 punishment for watching South Korean or American DVDs with a bribe of $100 in central Pyongyang, or less in the surrounding areas.

Group 109 is an organization set up by the Chosun Workers’ Party to crack down on illegal media including CDs and DVDs. The group is one of a number of ‘Gruppas’, as they are locally known, currently operating in the capital, with others including Group 622, which handles juvenile delinquency, and Group 27, actually a branch of the Defense Security Command, which deals with mobile phone usage.

The various groups have been conducting their assorted inspections to weed out myriad ‘anti-socialist’ behavior for some time, but bribery has always provided an escape route, albeit while those without money or connections were made an example of. However in recent times, allegedly since successor Kim Jong Eun ordered more intense inspections and punishments, the ‘Gruppas’ have had to take their tasks more seriously.

The volume of South Korean goods trading in the market has contracted due to the recent crackdowns, but their popularity is undiminished; evasion of inspections is apparently being achieved via house calls to trusted clients. Kim says that the preference is only getting stronger for South Korean goods amongst cadres, a group which has always been safe from inspections.

“The traders go around the city knocking on people’s doors, quietly asking whether the residents would like to buy some South Korean merchandise. For this reason the nickname ‘knock-knocker’ is sometimes used to refer to them,” Kim explained.

Read the full story here:
Pyongyang Seeing Tighter Inspections
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young
2011-8-24

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South Korean entertainment increasingly popular

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

The names Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok are growing in popularity in urban North Korea now that variety shows hosted by the two South Korean entertainers, KBS show “One Night, Two Days” and MBC’s “Endless Challenge”, are becoming popular there.

One source who trades in Pyongyang said, “I rented ‘X-Men’ (a variety show on another big South Korean station, SBS), the show hosted by Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok, from a CD store; it was really entertaining.”

“One of the popular things with Pyongyang elementary and middle school students is the games they can see in this show,” he added.

He noted, “Parents believe the games in X-Men can develop their children’s brains, so they also try to occasionally show it to them. Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok are really popular here; we laughed until we cried.”

According to the source, people in Pyongyang do not generally purchase CDs of North Korean products, but rent them for around 500 won each, while illegally-produced South Korean dramas and variety shows are generally 2,000 won each, approximately the price of a kilogram of rice.

Another source from Shinuiju said, “The shows with Kang Ho Dong and Yoo Jae Seok, ‘One Night, Two Days’ and ‘Endless Challenge’ are so popular that they sell for 4,800 won.”

The reason why people like ‘One Night, Two Days’, in which a number of South Korean entertainers, led by Kang, take a trip to little-known South Korean places to camp out, mingle with locals and play a range of games, the source said, is “because people can see a lot of the scenery of South Chosun, as if they were sightseeing for real. It gives comfort to those who are in the situation of being unable to so much as dream of a trip to Chosun.”

There is another background reason for their growing popularity: they are also popular among Korean-Chinese people in the border provinces of China, leading to these illegally copied CDs flowing into North Korea.

In Yanji, Dandong, Shenyang and other Chinese cities with big Korean-Chinese populations, internet cafes have their own servers to download South Korean TV shows so that local people can see them easily at a decent speed.

North Korean or Korean-Chinese smugglers then take illegally copied DVDs or CDs containing the shows into North Korea. One smuggler generally carries between 1,000 and 3,000 recordable CDs or DVDs including such shows into North Korea at any one time.

Another defector, Kim Seong Cheol explained, “I can copy thousands of CDs cheaply and send them to North Korea all at once.”

When he crosses the river, Kim says he ends up giving away a few hundred discs in the form of bribes, and wholesales a few hundred to each North Korean trader.

Read the full story here:
South Korean Entertainers Gaining in Popularity
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong and Jeong Jae Sung
3/23/2011

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ROK goods saturate DPRK

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

According to the Hankyorey:

A report on major North Korean indicators released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday revealed that South Korean products are becoming increasingly popular in North Korea, and that there are hardly any North Korean urban youth who do not watch South Korean TV dramas or movies.

In the report, Statistics Korea said it is becoming a fad for young people in major North Korean cities like Pyongyang and along the border with China to watch South Korean television dramas and films using MP3 players or laptop computers. Statistics Korea said MP3 players with 1G of memory cost 60,000 North Korean Won (estimated $419), while a used laptop costs about 2 million North Korean Won. A memory chip with two or three movies costs 10,000 North Korean Won if it is an original, and 5,000 North Korean Won if its a copy.

The report also said many South Korean products are in circulation in North Korea, including blenders, portable heaters, gas ranges, butane cans, lunch trays, gas heaters, rice cookers, dishrags and gloves. According to the report, South Korean shampoo and conditioner is popular with the wives of high-ranking North Korean officials in Pyongyang. Some 470g bottles of South Korean shampoo and rinse go for 40-50 yuan (8,000-10,000 South Korean Won) in Pyongyang. The report said the popularity of South Korean products was also reflected in other goods. South Korean necklaces are sold for about $500 and earrings for about $70-80, while South Korean products like perfume, deodorant, car air fresheners, refrigerator deodorizer and bathroom air fresheners are also selling well.

South Korea’s nominal GNI in 2009 was $837.2 billion, 37.4 times that of North Korea’s $22.4 billion. North Korea’s economic power, all told, is no more than the level of the South Korean city of Gwangju (about 22 trillion Won). South Korea’s per capita income of $18,175 was 17.9 times that of North Korea’s $960. South Korea also conducted $686.6 billion in total trade, 201.9 times that of North Korea, which conducted only $3.4 billion. The only sectors in which North Korea topped South Korea were production of iron ore and coal and length of railroads. North Korea’s iron ore production was 4.955 million tons, ten times that of South Korea (455,000 tons), and its coal production was 25.5 million tons, 10 times that of South Korea (2.519 million tons). North Korea also had 5,242km of railroads, 1.4 times that of South Korea’s 3,378km. North Korea is also believed to have 7 quadrillion Won in underground mineral wealth.

I have been unable to locate the original on the Statistics Korea page.  If any readers can find it, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
In limited N.Korean market, furor for S.Korean products
Hankyoreh
Hwangbo Yon
1/6/2011

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“Bend It” shown [edited] on DPRK TV

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

According to the New York Times:

But on Sunday, The Associated Press reported, North Korean television audiences were given a rare break from this routine when the British comedy “Bend It Like Beckham” was shown there. The film, which stars Parminder Nagra as a young woman from a Sikh family with dreams of soccer stardom; Keira Knightley as her best friend; and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the dreamy coach they both have eyes on, was shown over the weekend by the arrangement of the British Embassy. According to the BBC, a message was shown during the film saying that the broadcast was done to mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties between North Korea and Britain.

In a message on his Twitter account, Martin Uden, the British ambassador to South Korea, wrote: “Happy Christmas in Pyongyang. On 26/12 Bend it like Beckham was 1st ever western-made film to air on TV.” The A.P. said the North Korean broadcast of the two-hour movie was only an hour long, so please, no spoilers about the film’s subplots about religion and sexuality, or which of the women Mr. Rhys Meyer’s character ultimately chooses.

UPDATE from a Koryo Tours newsletter:

In 2004 Koryo Tours together with Ealing Studios and the British Embassy screened the film Bend it Like Beckham at the Pyongyang International Film Festival, it was seen by over 12,000 Pyongyang citizens and was the film they raved about…during the festival we were inudndated with requests for tickets from the Yanggakdo hotel staff. During the film the coach tells the heroine of the film to make a decision about her life…and this was translated as her following the Juche way!

In 2009 Koryo Tours was asked by the British Embassy in Pyongyang to assist with ideas for marking 10 years of diplomatic relations- and football was what we came up with. In October 2010 we took Middlesbrough Women’s football team to play two local Korean sides (to a total of 14,000 fans and nationwide tv broadcast) and on Boxing Day the film Bend It Like Beckham was broadcast in Pyongyang- and that is a massive ‘first’ with everyone in Pyongyang talking about it!

Our colleague Hannah Barraclough is working on bringing over the April 25th women’s team in 2012 to play in Europe. If you want any details or have any ideas on how to help with this project please let us know.

Here is a link to the ambassador’s Twitter feed.

To be honest, I am not sure about the claim that it is the first western-made film shown on DPRK TV. I know that the Bonner/Gordon film The Game of Their Lives was shown unedited on DPRK television, though it is about the DPRK and they were involved in the filming.  Tom & Jerry is on DPRK TV to this day, though it is not a film. Titanic was shown in DPRK cinemas.  Any other examples?

Read the full story here:
North Korea Gets a Special Kick Out of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’
New York Times
Dave Itzkoff
12/20/2010

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North Koreans reportedly enjoy US films

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Young North Koreans apparently prefer American soaps and films to South Korean ones, and they can now watch both easily. A defector who gave his name as Kim (43) and used to sell TV sets in the North said, “Used color TVs imported from China have both PAL and NTSC options, so there’s no problem receiving South Korean TV signals,” even in remote South Hamgyong Province.

North Korea and China use the PAL format to receive TV signals, while South Korea and Japan use the NTSC format. Some European countries and the Middle East favor SECAM. Most models manufactured after the 1990s allow users to shift formats.

“In South Hamgyong Province, only a few households are able to capture TV signals, but reception is quite good in Hwanghae or South Pyongan provinces,” Kim said. “People there look forward to the evenings when dramas are broadcast.” He said North Koreans also enjoy watching news and current events programs as well and power their TVs with their car batteries during power outages.

Another defector surnamed Yoo (40), who used to sell DVDs in the North and came to South Korea late last year, said North Koreans have grown tired of South Korean TV soaps with their stereotypical plots. “Nowadays, ‘Rambo 4,’ ’007 Casino Royale,’ and other American action films or TV dramas like ‘Prison Break’ are popular,” she added.

According to Yoo, South Korean TV soaps like “Winter Sonata,” “All In” or “Autumn in My Heart” were popular in the early 2000s, while “Jewel in the Palace” and other historical dramas grew popular in the late 2000s. Recently, action movies are gaining more attention.

North Koreans also prefer American movies to Korean ones. “Practically everyone knows ‘Titanic.’” The movie classic “Gone with the Wind” is popular among upper-class North Koreans in Pyongyang, while young people enjoy action films. “DVDs of American movies or TV dramas fetched the highest prices,” she said. “But now USBs with American TV programs are more popular than DVDs.”

Additional information:
1. Titanic is rumored to have been screened in Pyongyang cinemas.

2. Also, Tom and Jerry was shown on North Korean television in the 1980s. See here and here.

3. We have heard conflicting reports about just how tolerant the North Korean government is of foreign films.

Read the full story here:
N.Korean TV Viewers Favor American Shows
Choson Ilbo
12/18/2010

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“The Cleanest Race” on C-Span

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Back in February, B.R. Myers, author of The Cleanest Race, gave a few talks in the US.  Apparently I missed all of them.

Luckily, C-Span recorded the one of the discussions for us all to see.  It is well worth watching in its entirety here.

You can order the book at Amazon here.

(hat tip to a reader)

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Live television broadcasts in the DPRK

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

It was widely reported this weekend that Kim Jong-un attended a May Day Stadium rally, the Mass Games, a dance performace in in Kim Il-sung square, and military parade in Pyongyang—his first live public appearances in front of “ordinary” North Koreans. See videos of these events here: Mass Games, dance performancemilitary parade.  The military parade was broadcast live on North Korean television.  Communist countries rarely allow live television broadcasts (because things like this might happen).

So how rare is a live television broadcasts in the DPRK? The Daily NK published a short list :

The only previous events the North Korean media is known to have broadcast live are the performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang in February, 2008 and two games in this year’s World Cup.

I was only aware of one World Cup 2010 game being shown live on North Korean television (the Portugal grudge match).  What was the other game?  Are you aware of any other live television broadcasts in the DPRK?

UPDATE: The two live football matches were DPRK v. Portugal (June 2010) and a qualifier between the DPRK and Iran (June 2009).  Hat tip to a reader.

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