Wednesday, October 11, 2006

(Why) Would you go to North Korea today?

Lisa Ling talked to Oprah on Wednesday's show about her secret entry into North Korea and she brought back video footage with her at the risk of losing her life or, from my perspective, at the risk of causing more strain on the situation we already have with the reclusive country. What if she was caught and imprisoned? Was it a bad move considering the fragile state we are in right now? Furthermore, although she was on an investigative reporting assignment, she lied and said she was a medical assistant for cover-up. Is this tactic ok to use in certain situations?

Ling explained that everything is run by the government in NK. No one is allowed to own a cell phone and the Internet is forbidden. She had to hand her cell phone over and she was reprimanded for having a fashion magazine. There are only two television stations in NK and both are operated by the government. Despite the fact that America is far from perfect and we have First Amendment battles, can you imagine living in a society where only two television stations exist and the only broadcasts, music and literature you can access is from the government? In this light and in light of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politskovskaya, can we not show some gratitude for the freedom of press we know of today?

Lastly, as we have been watching the coverage of North Korea's nuclear testing and the American and international governments' responses, what is the role of journalism in such significant matters? At what point are we actively educating and at what point are we just "getting in the way?" Because although we are constantly guessing about North Korea, the top officials there get all they need to know about us basically through, well, our journalism news, no? For example, one article quoted a government source who said he didn't want to talk about the particulars of the nuclear test that may have gone wrong because he didn't want the NK government to read about it and fix it.

In the end, I commend Lisa Ling for getting in and out safely so that we could get a glimpse of the dark society. I just hope that the courageous acts of journalists are truly about more than the thrill and wow factor of getting rare news because the situation we have with North Korea is real and close to many people's hearts. For thousands of people, and they're not just in Korea but here in America, those are real people - mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, friends left behind over 50 years ago and "unification" of the Koreas would only be a miraculous dream come true.

Posted by AL


At Thursday, October 12, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

I think there definitely are times when the ethical thing for a journalist to do is to lie, and Ling's "medical assistant" fib qualifies. There is value to *any* information a journalist can get from a closed society like North Korea, and that info wouldn't be obtainable through other means. I'd happily tell 'em I was the president of the Chicago chapter of the Kim Jong Il fanclub if it helped me get accesss...


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