The Associated Press (AP) news agency has opened a bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea, becoming the first major Western news agency to set up shop in the isolated Communist state.
In 2006, the U.S.-based AP had established a video bureau in Pyongyang, but no full-time reporters.
China’s state-controlled Xinhua news agency is already well established in North Korea.
The AP office will be staffed by two full-time North Korean reporters under the supervision of two U.S. journalists based in Seoul, South Korea.
The development is somewhat extraordinary given that the U.S. and North Korea have no diplomatic relations and that North Korea censors all news coming in and going out.
Kim Pyong-ho, the president of North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, said in a statement that the two countries had been able to find a way to understand one another and to cooperate closely enough to open an AP bureau.”
AP President Tom Curley said the new bureau will adhere to the same journalistic standards as all of its other global offices.
Beyond this door lies a path to vastly larger understanding and cultural enrichment for millions around the world, Curley said in a statement.
Regardless of whether you were born in Pyongyang or Pennsylvania, you are aware of the bridge being created today.
Pyong Ho said in prepared remarks: I believe that the reason we are able to conduct all these projects in less than a year is that President and CEO Thomas Curley and the other members of the AP have promised to report on [North Korea] with fairness, balance and accuracy, and have tried to follow through in collaboration with KCNA.”
He added: Even though our two countries do not have normalized relations, we have been able to find a way to understand one another and to cooperate closely enough to open an AP bureau here in Pyongyang as we have today.”
The residents of North Korea have no access to the internet or foreign media. Moreover, foreign reporters are rarely allowed into North Korea – and when they are granted entry they are accompanied by government officials and only permitted to go to certain locales.
Nonetheless, Curley insisted the AP will not be hamstringed while reporting news from North Korea.
Everyone at The Associated Press takes his or her responsibilities of a free and fair press with utmost seriousness, he said.
We pledge to do our best to reflect accurately the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK] as well as what they do and say. The world knows very little about the DPRK, and this gives us a unique opportunity to bring the world news that it doesn't now have.”
AP’s move into North Korea comes about one month after the death of the country’s long-time ruler, Kim Jong-il.