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North Korea launches slick new YouTube channel to air Pyongyang propaganda
September 21, 2020
North Korea is now using slick YouTube videos to peddle its propaganda messages to the Western world.
A series of clips on the channel Echo of Truth aim to portray the reclusive dictatorship's capital Pyongyang as a hip city in a bid to change the perception many people outside the country have of it.
It is fronted by Un A, a young woman fluent in English who takes viewers on a tour of the city's metro, to a concert, to taste some traditional North Korean food and to a grocery store.
It is thought Kim Jong-un is desperate to change the image he feels many have of the country in the Western world. The government are keen to break the traditional overseas narrative of North Korea as a threatening nuclear-armed authoritarian state.
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North Korea is expanding its propaganda repertoire beyond austere military parades broadcast on state television to project a more modern image through slickly produced YouTube videos.
The channel has more than 35,000 subscribers and North Korean experts think it represents a departure from strictly approved scripts in an effort to introduce greater transparency into the country's media cycle.
But the series is still seen as a less than accurate representation on life in Pyongyang.
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It has a lot of foodie content, with the presenter Un A taking viewers on a tour of her favourite restaurants and visiting the well-stocked Taesong department store to pick up some butter biscuits as a treat. This is despite 60% of the population of North Korea reportedly being "food insecure".
Many of the videos reflect sights and experiences in and around the capital city that restricted groups of visitors are permitted to see. Despite this, residents are frequently shown as having a good time.
Experts also believe it serves as a political loudspeaker for Kim's government, giving them a platform to dismissing Western media reports of what is going on in North Korea.
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Towards the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the presenter explained how not a single person had contracted the illness because the government "took very decisive and very reasonable measures".
The presenter also attempts to rebut foreign headlines about the dire state of the reclusive state’s economy by popping into the supermarket again to interview women shopping there about whether they have noticed any price hikes.
They all stress the opposite. “I noticed some products got even cheaper," responds one customer in a lane of processed snacks.
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North Korea experts have suggested the channel is trying to show a more progressive country as international media gradually seeps into the country.
Observers of state media were surprised to see coverage of devastating typhoons in the state adopted a more international format with correspondents reporting from floodzones not sticking to a strict approved script.
Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former North Korea open source intelligence analyst in the US government, thinks the changes reflected leader Kim's attempts to introduce greater transparency.
She said: “Kim Jong-un seems to have realised early on that KCTV (state TV) needed to keep up with the times to compete with the influx of South Korean and foreign media and entertainment content, and that explains KCTV modernisation efforts."