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New Magazine Aims to Show Life in North Korea


A new magazine aims to give the world a close look at life inside North Korea - conveyed by undercover North Korean journalists. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin has more.

Video images of highly secretive North Korea were taken by North Koreans who say they want to bring the truth about their country to the world, and to their fellow citizens.

It is part of a project spearheaded by Japanese journalist Jiro Ishimaru and his partner, Choi Jin-I, a North Korean defector.

The two have created a magazine featuring reporting about North Korea by North Koreans. Ishimaru says he got the idea after frequently traveling to the North Korean border in China to report on the isolated communist state.

"I realized I had to find some way of training North Korean reporters to plant the seed of journalism within North Korea" says Ishimarui. "Journalists were the catalysts of democracy in South Korea, I feel the same thing could happen in the North. So, I looked for a volunteer."

The magazine, named Limjingang, has contributors in North Korea who write under pen names and face great danger. North Korea's government prohibits the publication of any information that does not conform to the state worship of leader Kim Jong Il and his family. If discovered, Limjingang's journalists could face execution, and the magazine's editors say they are taking great care to protect the reporters.

Ishimaru says he has distributed about 30 video cameras to the journalists, and taught them to secretly film images, which will be distributed to other media organizations.

The video shows impoverished women gathering recyclables to trade for cash. Legal markets that have sprouted up around the country in the past few years are seen doing a brisk trade in clothing and food. However, authorities also are shown breaking up a small market operating without government permission.

The magazine's senior editor, Choi Jin I, wants to make the magazine a voice of ordinary North Koreans. "The media in North Korea is controlled by the government," she says. "There is no way for North Koreans to express themselves. Limjingang is the first magazine that expresses the opinions of the common people of North Korea, and this will be a seed for purification of North Korea."

The debut issue includes an interview with an anonymous North Korean party official who complains about the government's investment in a nuclear test while people are hungry, and a conversation with a soldier who predicts his country's army will collapse. Choi and Ishimaru say people quoted in the magazine usually do not know they are being interviewed, to protect the journalists.

Choi and Ishimaru plan to publish in Korean, English, and Japanese. They also plan to distribute the magazine in North Korea, but do not elaborate on how they plan to accomplish that.

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