A high-ranking U.S. diplomat says Washington is working to break the "information blockade" that allows North Korea to hide its human rights abuses and keep its citizens ignorant of the outside world.
The U.S. envoy for human rights in North Korea, Robert King, said Thursday that ending media isolation in the tightly-controlled communist country is a fundamental part of encouraging positive reforms there.
"I still believe that the power of broadcasting can make a difference in breaking down the information blockade that's key to positive change in North Korea," King said.
King told a forum in Seoul that the U.S. government will continue to broadcast news and other information into North Korea, which has virtually no Internet access and severely restricts cell phone usage.
He said North Korea remains the "most extreme example of isolation," and that Pyongyang's control of information is one reason that it faces less of an international outcry.
Citing a recent U.S. State Department report, King said North Korea has outlawed all radios and televisions that are able to pick up non-state-controlled stations. It has also made attempts to block foreign news broadcasts, including those by the United States and South Korea.
But King said there are signs that the isolated government in Pyongyang may be losing its tight grip on information.
He noted that the North made a rare public admission in April that its long-range rocket launch had failed, after having previously reported similar failures as successes. He said the admission likely means the government realizes that its people would hear about the failure of the rocket launch from other sources.
King stressed that breaking the information barrier is a "fundamental component" of Washington's commitment to improving human rights in North Korea.
Specifically, King praised the radio as "the only real-time direct source of sensitive outside news available nationwide" in the isolated country.
North Korea has attempted, with varying success, to block radio transmissions by VOA's Korean service, which broadcasts five hours of outside information each day into Pyongyang via AM and shortwave broadcasts.