[KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in North Korea

Robert M Oppenheim rmo at austin.utexas.edu
Sun Apr 14 18:35:28 EDT 2013

The issue is being framed in terms of whether the LSE students gave informed consent or were put at risk, and I think those questions are damning enough.  (Big, big difference between a single ambiguous, possibly print "journalist" who may be able to anonymize those involved and a film crew; big, big problem when it seemed the first in London and they were informed of the second in Beijing).  But the LSE group is being discussed as if the students were simply, basically, tourists who just wanted to have a look around the DPRK for the fun of it.  Is it not possible that they had their own knowledge agendas, career agendas, even diplomatic agendas ("if only we could talk to North Koreans face to face") - whether realistic or naive really doesn't matter, ethically speaking.  Those have all been overwritten by the politics of the BBC documentary.  I'd hate to be one of the students from the group, planning, let's say, a serious career in aid work involving the DPRK, trying to go back in the future.  Informed consent aside, it is possible that the students were aligned with the purposes of the BBC, but that is not at all clear and (from the little I've read) is being treated as irrelevent.


From: Koreanstudies [koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] on behalf of Keith Howard [kh at soas.ac.uk]
Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2013 3:15 PM
To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
Subject: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in North Korea

I trust that some list members have heard of the lead news story today on the BBC, about three BBC journalists who accompanied students from the LSE – under the disguise of themselves claiming to be students. A BBC spokesman has claimed that to film the documentary (due to be broadcast tomorrow), it was worthwhile putting students at risk (Can this be right? – it was what their spokesman said on Radio 4 this afternoon).

See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22144667.

I would be interested in colleagues' reactions.

Prof. Keith Howard
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG, UK
kh at soas.ac.uk<mailto:kh at soas.ac.uk>; 0207 8984687; 07805 048801
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