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BBC to 'relay truth' to North Korea

The BBC is pushing to open a Korean language service, possibly in the middle of next year, to help North Koreans “hear the truth and better engage with the world,” a BBC journalist told The Korea Herald.

Daniel John Damon, who is working on the establishment of the shortwave radio service, said that the program would mainly target North Koreans who have been deprived of access to outside information.

“(The BBC) has a reputation for being reliable, and we have many sources of information. We want North Koreans to have that in their own language,” Damon, a presenter of World Update on the BBC World Service, said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald. 
Daniel John Damon (Song Sang-ho/The Korea Herald)
Daniel John Damon (Song Sang-ho/The Korea Herald)

Currently, the British broadcaster is working on creating a 30-minute program using shortwave or AM frequencies, or both, he said. The program is likely to consist of 10 minutes of news, 9 minutes of English education and 10 minutes of features on business, technology, culture, sports and other subjects.

The Korean language team is expected to have seven people ― six of them in London and one somewhere else.

“They will be using BBC materials as the basis for the international news, but they will also find the news in the region and from the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

The program, when fully operational, could lead to some change in the tightly-controlled North Korean society, observers noted. Yet, Damon said that the program was not about “regime change” that may result in chaos, albeit temporary, as witnessed in the collapse of the communist bloc decades ago.

“We are not about regime change. We are simply about the truth,” said Damon, a veteran journalist who covered the collapse of the communist bloc involving the former Soviet Union, East Germany and others, and conflicts including those in Croatia and Bosnia

“Getting people to hear the truth. That is what we are about.”

Damon’s interest in North grew after he found that the Western media coverage did not seem to capture the whole picture of the communist regime.

“I realized our reporting, Western reporting of North Korea is very bad,” he said. “It is either jokey about haircuts or only focused on one thing, about the nuclear issue. North Korea is a much richer place than that in terms of its culture and variety.”

By Song Sang-ho (