The Associated Press has covered a few events in North Korea over the course of the past year, but it has not delved into the darker side of life in the authoritarian regime. It sticks to softer topics, including a huge magic show and a parade that revealed Kim Jong II's son, Kim Jong Un, would be the country's next successor. Other AP news coming out of North Korea has stressed the country's nuclear capacities.
That may change. After signing agreements with North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, the AP announced that it will open an office in Pyongyang. It will be the first permanent Western text and photo bureau in the country. It will also be the exclusive distributor of video from KCNA's archive.
The news bureau is not the first step the AP has taken into the country. Five years ago, the AP Television News established an office in North Korea.
The AP prides itself on unbiased, international coverage, but in a country ranked so low on the Reporters without Borders' Press Freedom Index, how can it deliver? North Korea was ranked second-to-last (177 out of 178, beating only Eritrea) in last year's index.
AP has previously been criticized for coverage in an authoritarian country. Newsbusters, a conservative fact-checking website, condemned its coverage of the May Day parade in Cuba this year, claiming it left out important details. The demonstration was in support of economic changes by the Communist regime, but the reporters left out facts about the government busing in demonstrators or contextual details about food rationing.
The new office opens possibilities for Western media to more deeply understand the situation in North Korea, if the news organization is thorough in its reporting. Kathleen Caroll, the AP's top editor, told The Huffington Post that the news agency would not surrender its principles to satisfy the regime.
"The AP operates independently, regardless of Location. Period."
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