International news agency The Associated Press (AP) has formally launched the first and only fully staffed Western-owned news bureau in North Korea, with the aim to cover news in what is perhaps the most secretive and isolated country in the world.
On Monday, AP executives, including President and CEO Tom Curley, arrived in Pyongyang to officially open its North Korean bureau office – situated inside the headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
The news agency, which first made a breakthrough in the country when they opened a video bureau in 2006, is expected to document the people, places and politics of North Korea, particularly in the wake of recent developments, such as the death of Kim Jong-il last month and the subsequent ascension to power of his son, Kim Jong-un.
Curley has also pledged to maintain AP’s s Pyongyang bureau with the same standards and practices as its other bureaus worldwide, which operate in more than 100 countries and employs nearly 2,500 journalists across the world.
"Everyone at The Associated Press takes his or her responsibilities of a free and fair press with utmost seriousness," he said. "We pledge to do our best to reflect accurately the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as well as what they do and say."
In an interview with the Huffington Post, AP’s executive editor Kathleen Carroll also highlighted the journalistic standards that its North Korean bureau would have to live up to, noting that AP "does not submit to censorship" anywhere in the world, including North Korea.
Carroll though admitted that the presence of AP in North Korea, might not affect North Koreans greatly, as the country’s own citizens could only have access to state-run media, and not external sources.
"We don't have any customers in North Korea," Carroll noted, adding that the effort was still worth it given “"the hunger for information about North Korea and its people is so immense."
The AP North Korean bureau will be staffed by North Korean journalists alongside other veteran foreign reporters. Carroll has described the staffing as a merging of "outsiders' curiosity and insiders' knowledge." Apart from AP, the Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua also maintains a presence in Pyongyang.