North Korea has taken another step to bolster its international digital presence with the launch of an English-language website of the country's main newspaper.
With the vast majority of North Koreans not having access to the Internet, such initiatives are aimed solely at an international audience. Those who have do have Internet access connect through the “Kwangmyong,” essentially an isolated national Intranet with heavily controlled content and filtered search.
The content of "Rodong Sinmum" is unsurprising: legions of soldiers on parade grounds, a story on the "brisk production" of a machine-tool plant, and screeds against the "fascist" South Korea and their "dangerous war hysteria."
One commentary says that Kim's feats "in the cause of global independence will remain shining forever" in history. Another, titled "Leader Kim Jong Il's Holidays," talks of Kim's devotion and unimpeachable work ethic. "While people spend Sundays, going on picnic and enjoying their time on pleasure grounds, he would continue to be on his forced march," the author writes.
One story that stands out is the tale of a women's handball coach, who travelled abroad for treatment during the mourning period for Kim Jong Il -- but only due to the grace of Kim Jong Un:
On May 4, 2011, the Sports Complex of the Korean People’s Army was inaugurated in the presence of Kim Jong Il. That day he looked at the woman coaching a game outside the court. Suddenly his face went dark to notice a sign of sickness on her face.
An official came up to him and said she had been suffering from an incurable disease but never had she left the training court keeping on coaching the players.
"A good coach! Take care that she should be given a good medical treatment," said Kim Jong Il repeatedly.
In the later days, too, he wanted to keep informed of her conditions. Thanks to his deep concern the woman coach’s case was rapidly turning for the better.
In last December, the sad news came to her that leader Kim Jong Il passed away. It was a shock big enough to make her case worse all of a sudden.
Now, it was dear leader Kim Jong Un who came out for the salvation.
On December 22, 2011, Kim Jong Un got himself informed of her and took measures that she should be sent abroad for treatment.
Hearing of all this, she simply was choked with sobs. She entreated that she should go abroad a day later so that she could join the people in bidding the last farewell to leader Kim Jong Il.
But officials said between sobs:
"It is an order from dear respected Kim Jong Un to let you go without a single day’s delay. Get ready to start off."
She took aboard the plane with tears running down her face.
While mostly focused on Kim Jong Il, the newspaper is also looking ahead to the Kim Jong Un era. A ticker running across the screen reads, "Glorify this year 2012 as a year of proud victory, a year when an era of prosperity is unfolding, true to the instructions of the great General Kim Jong Il."
Sometimes regimes can be savvy enough to present a much sleeker, sanitized portrait of their country to an international audience, while their domestic audience are saddled with the usual propaganda dross. But by look of this hour-long documentary from state TV on Kim Jong Un
-- where he's pictured riding a horse, driving a tank, and looking off into the distance a lot -- the English-language website seems to be a reasonable representation of domestic fare.