Verified news from the reclusive nation of North Korea has always been difficult to obtain, and it’s only getting harder. North Korea’s state-run news agency, which is mostly filled with propaganda, has deleted more than 35,000 articles from its online news archive following the high-profile execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek.
The deletion of the articles is the biggest censorship move on the news outlet’s webpage, according to NK News, an independent Washington, D.C.-based North Korea news site, and only a handful of articles about Kim Jong Un remained on the site. NK News has been tracking the agency’s news stream through KCNA Watch, which gives a rundown of North Korean news. On Monday it was discovered that the archive of news now only dates back to October 2013. “There were 35,000 articles dated September 2013 or earlier on KCNA in Korean,” Frank Feinstein, a programmer for NK News, said. “If they’re leaving the odd one in, it’s still a kill ratio of 98-99 percent.”
In addition to the original Korean-language articles' deletion from the site, the English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese translations were also removed, bringing the total number of missing articles to an estimated 100,000. Searches for anything prior to Oct. 1, 2013, on the site return only the word “NULL.” The North Korean state newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, also removed approximately 20,000 articles from its news archive. Based on Feinstein’s findings, the website deletions were an intentional purge. “This is a calculated thing they’ve done,” Feinstein said. “Across all sites, it means the order most likely came from above [for] each individual agency. This is what makes it so interesting -- it’s a true North Korean purge, not just a KCNA one.”
An anonymous source said the news purge of recent events is Pyongyang’s way of exercising control over conversations about Jang and putting them to rest. The deletion, the source says, is “related to the rewriting of North Korean history and securing of Kim Jong Un as the new leader.” Which is also the likely reason why articles only pertaining to Kim were not deleted from the site. Before the massive deletion of articles, KCNA began deleting all articles that mentioned Jang, including official statements about his removal from office and his execution, which occurred last Friday. Several articles written explicitly on Jang were deleted, while some 500 other articles were edited to remove Jang’s name from the text.
Meanwhile, Kim is continuing to run his country as if none of the dramatic events that unfolded last week ever happened. Yesterday, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that Kim was seen inspecting the country’s highly anticipated ski resort, just a few days after his uncle’s execution.