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Unification ministry ends 'fake news' monitoring on North Korea


By Kang Seung-woo

The Ministry of Unification is poised to finishing monitoring "fake news" on North Korea only one year after starting the program amid lingering questions on its effectiveness.

According to the ministry, Wednesday, it has decided not to earmark a budget for the program for 2023. Last year, 200 million won ($143,000) was budgeted to counter disinformation in 2022.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un / Korea Times file
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un / Korea Times file
The project was launched amid growing concerns that the spread of unsubstantiated rumors and speculation about the secretive state could trigger confusion and instability in society and financial markets. The monitoring system has provided corrections on unreliable information and the ministry's countermeasures on its official website.

A ministry official said the ministry decided to cut the program after considering a variety of relevant factors.

From the beginning, the project faced strong criticism for being ineffective and wasteful. In addition, it was also pointed out that the standards for classifying fake news and the countermeasures to be used were unclear and could weaken the critique function of the media.

At that time, the ministry explained that it would materialize the project as a program to monitor false, distorted and manipulated information about North Korea circulated in the news media.

In that respect, the ministry decided to limit the monitoring target to new media such as blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, excluding established media, a departure from the original purpose of monitoring misinformation on North Korea as proposed by the Democratic Party of Korea.

In 2020 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was absent from public view for 20 days, speculation was rampant about his health and even the possibility of his death, sparked by a CNN report, thereby causing instability in local financial markets amid jitters about a possible power vacuum and instability in the nuclear-armed country.

As a result, there were growing calls for tough measures to stem the spread of unsubstantiated news and groundless rumors about Pyongyang.



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