The Associated Press (AP) opened a bureau in Pyongyang yesterday, becoming the first international news organization with a full-time presence to cover news from North Korea in words, pictures and video.
In a ceremony that came less than a month after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and capped nearly a year of discussions, AP president and chief executive Tom Curley and a delegation of top AP editors inaugurated the office, situated inside the headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in downtown Pyongyang.
The bureau expands the AP’s presence in North Korea, building on the breakthrough in 2006 when AP opened a video bureau in Pyongyang, the first time by an international news organization. Exclusive video from AP video staffers in Pyongyang was used by media outlets around the world following Kim’s death.
AP writers and photojournalists will now be allowed to work in North Korea on a regular basis.
For North Korea, which for decades has remained largely off-limits to international journalists, the opening marks an important gesture, particularly because North Korea and the US have never had formal diplomatic relations.
The AP, an independent 165-year-old news cooperative founded in New York and owned by its US newspaper membership, has operations in more than 100 countries and employs about 2,500 journalists across the world in 300 locations.
“Beyond this door lies a path to vastly larger understanding and cultural enrichment for millions around the world,” Curley said. “Regardless of whether you were born in Pyongyang or Pennsylvania, you are aware of the bridge being created today.”
Curley said the Pyongyang bureau will operate under the same standards and practices as AP bureaus worldwide.
“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,” Curley said.
KCNA president Kim Pyong-ho called the occasion “a significant meeting.
“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,” Kim Pyong-ho said.
The AP bureau will be staffed by reporter Pak Won-il and photographer Kim Kwang-hyon, both natives of North Korea who have done some reporting for AP in recent weeks on Kim Jong-il’s funeral and the mass public mourning on the streets of Pyongyang.
The bureau will be supervised by Korea Bureau chief Jean Lee and chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder, who will make frequent trips to Pyongyang to manage the office, train the local journalists and conduct their own reporting.