Monday, 4 June 2012

North Korea threatens to attack South Korean media

"There are but two powers in the world - the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind" - Napoleon Bonaparte. 

This quotation was used as the opening line of my PhD thesis almost twenty years ago, and came to mind again when I read an interesting story published by Channel News Asia ( which describes how the regime in North Korea has threatened to attack a number of South Korean media. Pyongyang has accused  major newspapers, Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo, and three TV channels (KBS, MNBC, and SBS) of engaging in propaganda in their coverage of the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children's Union.

Seoul is right to take such threats seriously, and this episode suggests that the new leadership in Pyongyang is still consolidating its power. Identifying external enemies is, of course, always an easy way of mobilising support and boosting popular legitimacy. The media is the easiest target of all in the short run, but states who make enemies of the media would do well to remember Napoleon's remarks.

This story also demonstrates that the media are increasingly regarded as 'legitimate' targets by regimes around the world - whether it is Pyongyang, or the deliberate bombing of Al-Jazeera in Afghanistan and Iraq by US forces. This is a very worrying development in international communications and journalism and we need to do all we can to make sure that states are never again allowed to shoot the messenger.



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