Published : 2013-01-18 21:58
Updated : 2013-01-18 21:58
North Korea may open its borders to more foreign news media as part of its efforts to increase contact with the outside world, a senior official of the Associated Press (AP) said Friday after a visit to the communist country.
AP was allowed to open a bureau in North Korea in January last year, becoming the first Western media outlet in the country. Other foreign media that had been allowed in the country before were all from the old Soviet Union, its successor Russia and China.
"I suspect that they probably will allow more foreign news outlets in the country down the road," AP Vice President John Daniszewski said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul.
"The AP presence was a big step for them, and nothing in our talks at least with the (North) Korean Central News Agency indicated that they regretted the decision," he said. "I think they are conscious of wanting to tell their point of view and (having) their policies (heard)."
Daniszewski arrived in Seoul Thursday after making what he called a four-day "working" trip to North Korea, during which he said he mainly met with officials of the KCNA. A courtesy call on the North's foreign ministry was the only contact he said he had with the government there.
The trip was arranged as part of programs that marked the first anniversary of AP's opening of its bureau in the North's capital, Pyongyang. AP's video news affiliate, APTN, had opened an office in the North in 2006.
Despite its presence in North Korea, Daniszewski said, AP's only American correspondent in Pyongyang "hasn't had good luck getting out of Pyongyang and doing stories," he said, referring to the difficulties in obtaining government permission to travel.
"When we want to cover a story, we have to request interviews, request permissions to go to places either to government offices involved or KCNA, which arrange things," he said.
Additionally, visa restrictions prohibit long-term residency, forcing the AP correspondent in Pyongyang to frequently travel in and out of the country.
"We argue that exchange of news and information among countries is a positive value. We try to make the case that we should be allowed to live there," he said.
Daniszewski also said North Korea appears to be more open to Western pop culture, airing foreign television programs.
"Our correspondent mentioned that there are some new TV shows, some interesting films like 'Madagascar,'" he said, referring to the hit American animation film.
Speculation mounts among foreign media that North Korea under the new young leader, Kim Jong-eun, may be more liberal than when his late father, Kim Jong-il, ruled. The senior Kim died of a heart attack in December, 2011.
North Korean television has recently aired programs showing a Mickey Mouse-like character and female musicians in mini-skirts, which some outside analysts take as a sign that the North may be more tolerant to Western pop culture than before.
The vice president said AP anticipates covering more stories in North Korea this year than last year, adding "We want to see more of the country and talk more with the people."