Send to

AP to open bureau in Pyongyang

June 30, 2011 - 19:56 By 신혜인
Media office may lead to increased U.S.-North Korea exchanges

The Associated Press said it signed an agreement with Pyongyang on Thursday to become the first Western media to open a permanent news bureau in the reclusive state, a move that may lead to increased Washington-North Korea exchanges.

The memorandum of understanding agreed by the AP and the North’s official Korean Central News Agency “would expand the AP’s presence in North Korea to a level unmatched by any other Western news organization,” the U.S. media said.

Under the agreement ― signed on Tuesday, New York time ― the AP would expand its existing video news bureau into a comprehensive one by sending its text and photo journalists to work in North Korea. The existing video bureau was opened in 2006. 
North Korea’s Kim Pyong-ho (right), president of Korean Central News Agency, exchanges an agreement during an official signing with Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley in New York on Tuesday. (AP-Yonhap News)

North Korea, which rarely reveals its news to outsiders and also keeps is own people strictly isolated from outside news, appears to have made the rare decision to keep in close contact with Washington, analysts say.

The communist state has been suffering from deepening food shortages and international isolation since it conducted a second nuclear test in 2009. Slapped with U.S.-led sanctions, it conducted two deadly attacks against Seoul last year, turning allies more reluctant to do it any financial favors.

Frustrated with the prolonged suspension of talks with its southern rival, North Korea may push to hold one-on-one negotiations with the U.S. instead, analysts have said in recent weeks.

The multinational talks on North Korea’s denuclearization, stalled since the end of 2008, was the communist state’s main source of outside aid. The talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

The U.S. and North Korean news agencies will begin to work on details of setting up the news bureau as soon as possible, the AP said.

The KCNA also agreed to designate the AP as the exclusive international distributor of contemporary and historic video from its archive and hold a joint photo exhibition in New York next year.

The agreement “is historic and significant,” AP President and CEO Tom Curley said while signing the agreement in New York. “We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to providing coverage for AP’s global audience in our usually reliable and insightful way.”

Kim Pyong Ho, president of KCNA, said he hopes the agreement “contributes not only” to the strengthening of relations between the news agencies “but also to the better understanding between” Washington and Pyongyang, hinting at his country’s main purpose of the agreement.

The five-member KCNA delegation led by Kim had arrived in New York last weekend for talks with their AP counterparts.

Government officials in each country were aware of the AP-KCNA initiative and the U.S. State Department approved visas for the group coming to New York., the AP said.

U.S. government policy backs some cultural exchanges with North Korea as a way to build trust between the two countries. The United States and North Korea are still technically at war after a 58-year armistice agreement ended the fighting of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Founded in 1846, the AP maintains bureaus in some 100 countries around the world and is the oldest and largest of the world’s major news agencies.

By Shin Hae-in (