|Jean Lee of AP Pyongyang |
bureau (Twitter feed)
Having worked quite some time in news media, I may perhaps be a little more grounded in pragmatism than idealism. That means that, unlike Joshua, I do see some potential value in a major Western news service constantly having boots on the ground in North Korea, when/if some serious sh¡t goes down up north.
Even with a generally compliant media partner like AP seems to have been so far, it would be harder for Pyongyang to contain news and information about, say, a North Korean version of an Arab Spring, were that to occur. (And I think it may be coming.)
There are two other potential positives here. One is that AP has a chance to show regular North Koreans (or as regular as you can find in the North Korean capital where one must be a party loyalist) being regular North Koreans. It's humanizing, in a way that's an antidote to the way an entire country gets demonized if they have a leader whose the subject of angry political speeches or late-night comedians.
Second, I dare say there may even by a sort of Hawthorne Effect at work here, whereby the authorities kinda sorta behave better knowing that there are observers in their midst.
Ultimately it comes down to this: North Korea allows no one into its house unless they agree to play by their rules, not some froufrou "international norms" that everyone else abides by, and AP knows it. Perhaps they thought they could effect more positive change by doing it this way. For now, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but Jean Lee and her editors back in Washington should know we're watching them (meant in a watchdoggedly diligent way, not a creepy way).
Pyongyang's position leaves us with two choices: go along to get in the door, or stay locked outside. Although I wouldn't want Reuters, AFP, the NYT, WaPo, LAT, BBC, etc., etc. to all choose this path, methinks it might be good that at least one agency is inside the lion's den.