Mar 102014

YANGON (March 11, 2014) A panel of journalists and experts on the Korean Peninsula discussed the challenges of reporting in this area at the East-West Center International Media conference in Yangon, Myanmar. (Watch video of the panel)

Journalists said that reporting news on North Korea, the most isolated country in the world, is difficult, and that they heavily rely on outside sources for their reports. Steven Boroweic, a journalist based in Seoul, said his sources include North Korean refugees, experts and activists. Information from such groups cannot always be verified, he acknowledged, while some activists have their own agendas.

Baek Nari, reporter for the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea, cautioned about the use of refugees as sources. “Most of the refugees are from the north of the country, where it is easier for them to escape,” Nari said. Given the situation in the country, Nari said, many refugees do not know what is happening in Pyongyang and, as a result, many of them exaggerate and sometimes fabricate information.

While it’s hard to get the news from North Korea, the media in South Korea is under heavy censorship from the government, said Geoffrey Fattig, a graduate student in international relations at the University of California-San Diego. Fattig said that the government has tightened their grip by having a vague defamation law, as well as strict Internet control.

Fattig said that South Korea gets away with much censorship because of North Korea. He urged journalists and the international community to speak out about the censorship, as Seoul is more likely to change under outside pressure.

– Reporting by Ninh Pham, Missouri School of Journalism

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