The homecoming of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling dominated the news in the U.S. this week, but what’s the North Korean media saying about the incident?
This video posted on YouTube — which appears to be a report from the state-sponsored Korean Central television — has no images of the tearful women, but lots of pictures of Bill Clinton meeting various North Korean dignitaries. The North Korean state news agency website has the English text translation, which declares the release “a manifestation of the DPRK’s humanitarian and peace-loving policy.”
To help us sort through what’s behind the message, we turned to Leon Sigal of the Social Science Research Council.
Worldfocus: Does this video appear to be from Korean Central TV?
Sigal: Yes. They look like the two main news reports.
Worldfocus: How would you characterize the language used in the reports?
Sigal: It shows how a little respect from the U.S. goes a long way in the DPRK. Four points are worth noting:
“Clinton expressed words of sincere apology to Kim Jong Il for the hostile acts committed by the two American journalists against the DPRK after illegally intruding into it. Clinton courteously conveyed to Kim
Jong Il an earnest request of the U.S. government to leniently pardon them and send them back home from a humanitarian point of view.”
Words of sincere apology are not the same as saying he apologized, and could reflect a generous interpretation of seeking the journalists’ amnesty, which tacitly acknowledges wrongdoing, or perhaps calling the incident regrettable, which it was.
“The meetings had candid and in-depth discussions on the pending issues between the DPRK and the U.S. in a sincere atmosphere and reached a consensus of views on seeking a negotiated settlement of them.”
Candid suggests there were differences, but they agreed on “seeking a negotiated settlement.”
“Clinton courteously conveyed a verbal message of U.S. President Barack Obama expressing profound thanks for this and reflecting views on ways of improving the relations between the two countries.”
Clinton conveyed the president’s position — no more and no less.
“The DPRK visit of Clinton and his party will contribute to deepening the understanding between the DPRK and the U.S. and building the bilateral confidence.“
Pyongyang is signaling to its people it is ready to make a deal with Washington.
Worldfocus: What isn’t being said in these reports and why not?
Sigal: It goes out of its way to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as the old Johnny Mercer-Harold Arlen song goes.
– Rebecca Haggerty