Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2018, 15:01 GMT

Predators of Press Freedom: North Korea - Kim Jong-il

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 3 May 2011
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Predators of Press Freedom: North Korea - Kim Jong-il, 3 May 2011, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kim Jong-il, North Korea

The tyrant of Pyongyang has appeared less often in public since suffering a stroke in 2008 and is grooming his younger son, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him. In September 2010, Kim Jong-un was named successively as a member of the National Defence Commission, a four-star general and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission. Kim Jong-il and his family continue to maintain North Koreans in a terrifying isolation. The totalitarian regime he has headed since the death in 1994 of his father, Kim Il-sung (known as the "Eternal President" and "Humanity's Eternal Sun"), has of late been waging a campaign against "illegal" use of the few mobile phones.

In a way that is unique in the world, the North Korean media are used primarily for a personality cult of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, who are praised as "socialist heroes," and the cult will almost certainly soon be extended to Kim Jong-un. The "Dear Leader" banned the media from discussing the famine that killed millions of North Koreans during the 1990s. Each day his activities, or those of his father or children, begin the TV news broadcasts and are front-page stories in the newspapers. The misspelling of his name suffices to send the culprit to one of North Korea's ideological re-education camps.

In 2008, Kim Jong-il ordered the security forces to prevent foreign videos, magazines, telephones, computers and CDs from entering the country from China. Several people have been executed for using mobile phones without permission. Others have been sent to the concentration camps where at least 150,000 people are held in terrible conditions, in some cases just for listening to a radio station based abroad. One of these camps is thought to hold the military officer who managed to send a video of a public execution to Japan in 2006.

Kim Jong-il has another obsession: the international and exile radio stations that broadcast programmes targeted at the North Korean population. The Pyongyang media are told to keep threatening these stations while the police try to track down those who surreptitiously listen to them. Radio sets are very closely regulated. North Koreans must have a special permit to own radio sets, which can only be tuned to the official stations. Independent exile radio stations based in South Korea, such as Radio Free Chosun, Open Radio North Korea and Radio Free North Korea, nonetheless manage to break through the barrier of censorship.

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