[KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in NorthKorea

don kirk kirkdon at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 15 20:36:21 EDT 2013

Thanks -- Your experience was no doubt revealing. My own trips have ranged from four nights to two weeks, that's it. (Was there for 12 days last summer.) You have no doubt had many varied encounters. I was referring only to interaction with guide-minders on brief trips. They never said anything to me that was revealing beyond the authorized briefings they gave when looking at stuff, on the bus etc. Humanitarian workers, ranging over broad areas, would have different impressions and experiences. You err in thinking I or others would have no regard for the fates of guides and their families. In my experience there was never any instance in which such issues arose. Guides were always quite pleasant -- except when warning that anyone who veered outside the group would be told to leave the country.
 (They never came close to carrying out the threat.) I never heard of anyone "extracting a confession from guides." Nor do I know of anyone "with article written no matter what they see." My own articles from last summer are accessible through links on the "hermit kingdom" page of my website, www.donaldkirk.com. A problem in writing them was there wasn't a lot to go on, but I did my best with what I had. Another listee, Mr. Hoare, seems to think it's possible to get a journalist's visa any time. These are difficult and in most cases impossible to get. The AP in Pyongyang  has been noteworthy for writing soft non-critical stories. (Check out recent articles by Ethan Epstein, The Weekly Standard, and a piece I did for 38North: http://38north.org/2013/03/dkirk032213/.)Don Kirk

--- On Mon, 4/15/13, Frederic OJARDIAS <fojardias at hotmail.com> wrote:

From: Frederic OJARDIAS <fojardias at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in NorthKorea
To: "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>, "Ruediger Frank" <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>
Cc: "Jim Hoare" <jim at JHOARE10.FSNET.CO.UK>, BAKS at JISCMAIL.AC.UK, "Keith Howard" <kh at soas.ac.uk>, "DavidMcCann" <dmccann at fas.harvard.edu>
Date: Monday, April 15, 2013, 10:24 AM


Dear Don,
This is funny how you can show at the same time 
so much interest for human rights in DPRK, and so little regard for the fate of 
these North Korean guides and their families.
You take great pride and legitimacy in your 
numerous short trips to DPRK. But I can tell you one thing : I 
lived approximately a year in North Korea (working for different 
humanitarian organizations, in Pyongyang and in the countryside) and I know how 
dangerous life can be for all the staff (drivers, guides, translators, 
etc) who deal daily with us, foreigners. Some disappear.
"No shred of evidence", you say ? Ask 
humanitarian workers. They will not agree with you. I saw real fear in the 
eyes of some of our DPRK counterparts when something went wrong. Working with us 
is dangerous.
Brave journalists who go to DPRK one week (with 
their article already written no matter what they will see), have fun, extract 
confessions from their guides, escape their minders, take footage and put at 
risks the life of the people they filmed (and their families) are not much worth 
the regime they feel so superior to.
Frederic Ojardias
Radio France Internationale
Seoul correspondant

From: don kirk 
Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 8:34 PM
To: Korean Studies Discussion List ; Ruediger Frank 
Cc: Jim Hoare ; BAKS at JISCMAIL.AC.UK ; DavidMcCann ; Keith Howard 
Subject: Re: [KS] BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in 

      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:

        Ruediger Frank <ruediger.frank at univie.ac.at>
Subject: Re: [KS] 
        BBC journalists pose as LSE university students in North Korea
        "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 

        Dear all,
        find this behavior highly unethical and irresponsible, for a number of 
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 
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 
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 
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.

        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 
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, London 
              WC1H 0XG, UK
kh at soas.ac.uk; 0207 8984687; 

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