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

Minkyu Sung minkyusung at gmail.com
Mon Apr 15 08:42:02 EDT 2013

From a history of journalism perspective, I would say, there would be few contemporary journalists who try to claim their "public interest" legitimacy by sacrificing innocent persons in society. In my view, the issue is not whether or not visitors to North Korea are "among the world's best protected people"--as Don Kirk shares his own travel experience in NK there's a reason--but who can legitimately be sacrificed  by the "courageous" (this would be better than the term "heroic"?) reporting. Can a journalist's moral sense for the public interest simply overwhelm his or her ethical commitment?


Minkyu Sung
Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea

On 2013. 4. 15., at 오후 8:34, don kirk <kirkdon at yahoo.com> wrote:

> This palaver is regrettable. There's no shred of evidence any NKorean ever got into trouble for the shenanigans of visitors -- the BBC mission having been one of many such ventures. I ran into the same head guide for my visit in 2005 and again 2008. He talked to me at some length. KNTO and Koryo Tours (the latter never handled my visits incidentally) will go on as usual. Nobody's claiming heroics -- nothing heroic about going there, very simple once you get the visa. Visitors may be among the world's best protected people, shielded from all harm while also shielded from seeing stuff they don't want seen. Trips can be quite routine when you're led to some of the same places every time, but they're the best one can do when the place is closed to the kind of reporting one can do even in repressed dictatorships.(No other country on earth compels visitors to line up in front of statues of their deceased leaders, bow and place flowers.) It's unfortunate some listees don't respect what the BBC, and others, are trying to do. Some listees seem to place higher priority on sensitivities about which they have no evidence than the need to attempt, against odds, to convey a modicum of understanding to the rest of the world.
> Don Kirk
> --- On Mon, 4/15/13, Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at> wrote:
> From: Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>
> Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in North Korea
> To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Cc: "Keith Howard" <kh at soas.ac.uk>, "Jim Hoare" <jim at JHOARE10.FSNET.CO.UK>, BAKS at JISCMAIL.AC.UK, "don kirk" <kirkdon at yahoo.com>, "Morriss, Peter" <pete.morriss at NUIGALWAY.IE>, "McCann, David" <dmccann at fas.harvard.edu>, "Balazs Szalontai" <aoverl at yahoo.co.uk>
> Date: Monday, April 15, 2013, 2:19 AM
> Dear all,
> I find this behavior highly unethical and irresponsible, for a number of reasons. 
> In addition to the many points made already, let's not be too self-centered. The feelings of LSE students and potential aid workers are important, but one affected group we have ignored so far. There were North Koreans responsible for that trip: folks from KNTO (the tourism organization) and others. They will now, away from the public eye and not protected by a Western passport, face allegations of not having done their job properly. I have always been deeply annoyed by the fact that such allegedly "heroic" behavior by Westerners - seriosly, what can happen to us in the worst case? - is taking place at the expense of those nameless people who are left behind in NK and who will have to bear all the wrath of the regime. We talk about human rights in NK and so on in our Sunday speeches, but in fact we don't give a bloody damn about the people there. This is disgusting.
> Besides, the NK state has also been lied to. Such behavior enforces stereotypes about Westerners who cannot be trusted. Not that anyone would care, but I wanted to at least mention that.
> Great, good job. And all that for stuff (I suppose) that I and 1000 others have filmed again and again before? Wow.
> I have decided not to give any interviews to BBC anymore. Well, they'll survive. 
> Prof. Rudiger Frank, Vienna
> PS: I forgot the tour operator, most likely Koryo tours. Their business is not going to get easier. But why should the BBC care? It's in the holy name of truth (about others), isn't it. Collateral damage, so what.
> on Sonntag, 14. April 2013 at 22:15 you wrote:
> 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; 0207 8984687; 07805 048801

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