Beer – Yes, but no Voice of America report on North Korea sanctions vote in Congress

BBG Watch Commentary

SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: “There’s a level of irony here… VOA claiming their journalistic integrity is under attack and then putting out stories that make their journalistic integrity seem questionable.

Very disappointing.”

VOA English News Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.25 PM EDT. There is no mention in this VOA English News report of malnutrition in North Korea. Such a mention might have spoiled beer tasting for Western tourists going to North Korea.

VOA English News Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.25 PM EDT. There is no mention in this VOA English News report of malnutrition in North Korea. Such a mention by Voice of America might have spoiled beer tasting for Western tourists going to North Korea.

 
 

Voice of America (VOA) English website has a funny, sporadic and unprofessional way of covering North Korean news that ignores the VOA Charter requirements for balanced and comprehensive reporting and presenting U.S. policies.

This problem at the U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA is widespread and not limited by any means only to North Korean news.

On Monday, VOA posted a highly biased news report on the House passage of H.R. 4490, the U.S. International Communications Reform Act of 2014. The VOA report quoted outside critics of the bill, but failed to quote or even mention its strong inside and outside supporters. (“House Passes Bill To Overhaul US International Broadcasting — Voice of America take lacks balance,” BBG Watch, July 28, 2014.)

North Korea

VOA’s main news website had no reports Monday at all on the U.S. House of Representatives passage of another bipartisan legislation, H.R. 1771, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, to strengthen sanctions against North Korea. H.R. 1771 had more than 140 co-sponsors and is supported by humanitarian groups worldwide. It strengthens existing sanctions against North Korea by prohibiting North Korea’s access to critical resources — such as hard currency and other goods — that keep the Kim regime in power.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), who introduced the legislation, spoke about the proposed North Korean sanctions on the House floor Monday, (“Chairman Royce Applauds House Passage of North Korea Sanctions Legislation,” July 28, 2014) His comments about North Korea were not reported by VOA English News. VOA also did not report on Chairman Royce’s statement about a letter to President Obama from supporters of the legislation to reform the Voice of America together with the rest of U.S. international media outreach now overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

 
 

Search on July 29, 2014 for VOA English News reports relating to North Korea, sanctions, and Rep. Ed Royce has produced zero results for the last seven days.

Search on July 29, 2014 for VOA English News reports relating to North Korea, sanctions, and Rep. Ed Royce has produced zero results for the last seven days.

 
 

The VOA Korean Service did have a report on Monday’s vote on H.R. 1771. BBG Watch found one VOA report in Korean that was posted online on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 03:35 Korea time.

A senior Congressional staffer in the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave BBG Watch this off-the-record comment on the lack of balance in VOA English News reports and VOA’s failure to fulfill its other Charter obligations:

 

SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL STAFFER: “There’s a level of irony here… VOA claiming their journalistic integrity is under attack and then putting out stories that make their journalistic integrity seem questionable.

Very disappointing.”

 

While blowing off Congress and Chairman Royce on the issue of proposed new sanctions against Pyongyang, VOA English news website nevertheless managed to post two intriguing North Korean news stories in the last two days — one on a North Korean threat to nuke the White House and the next day on North Korean beer production.

We thought that the Voice of America’s posting of a news story on North Korean beer the day after Pyongyang threatened to kill President Obama and all other residents of Washington, DC, where VOA has its headquarters, to be somewhat hilarious. Perhaps North Koreans will be drinking beer after everyone in Washington, including VOA editors who posted this news story, are dead from a nuclear attack.

 

VOA English News Report Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.37 PM EDT

N. Korean Official Threatens White House Nuclear Strike — VOA English News Report

VOA News

July 28, 2014 8:08 AM

A high-ranking North Korean military official has threatened to launch a nuclear strike against the United States, accusing Washington of increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea, which has made similar threats before, is thought to be a long way from developing a ballistic missile with the range to carry out such an attack.

Vice Marshall Hwang Pyong So said Sunday that the North would launch nuclear rockets at the White House and U.S. military bases around the Pacific if Washington attempted to undermine North Korea’s sovereignty and right to have nuclear weapons and deploy a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Hwang was speaking at a rally in Pyongyang marking the 61st anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Experts say North Korea does not have a ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. The North has tested short and long-range missiles capable of reaching South Korea and Japan.

 

Perhaps in an effort not to offend North Korea too much, VOA English News website posted this news report on Tuesday — the day after North Korea threatened to nuke the White House. The timing could not have been better. A former VOA journalist with years of news reporting experience had this comment: This is clearly part of the effort to demonstrate the new VOA, as envisioned by Voice of America Director David Ensor. Just wait! In the year 2020, what wonders we will see!

 

VOA English News Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.25 PM EDT. There is no mention in this VOA English News report of malnutrition in North Korea. Such a mention might have spoiled beer tasting for Western tourists going to North Korea.

VOA English News Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.25 PM EDT. There is no mention in this VOA English News report of malnutrition in North Korea. Such a mention might have spoiled beer tasting for Western tourists going to North Korea.

Czech Know-how Brewing in N. Korea – VOA English News Report

Cho Eun Jung

July 29, 2014 6:12 PM

The North Korean government’s efforts to produce better-quality beer seems to be paying off.

Lager produced with Czech Republic technology, expertise, and ingredients is captivating the taste buds of tourists to the communist country, as well as the rich young adults of Pyongyang. That is according to Tomas Novotny of the Czech brewing company Zvu Potez.

“Many Russian and Chinese tourists, as well as North Koreans from Pyongyang travel [to the Rason Special Economic Zone] only to taste this beer,” said Novotny in a telephone interview with the VOA Korean service.

According to Zvu Potez’s website, the company is well-known for beer production expertise. It reportedly has helped build as many as 200 complete breweries and 50 mini-breweries around the globe.

Earlier this month, Martin Kovar, Sales Director at Zvu Potez, said in an interview with local daily Mlada Fronta Dnes that North Korean representatives in the Czech Republic approached his company directly.

“We took the [North Korean] representatives to a few Czech microbreweries, and then they chose a type of beer that appealed to them the most,” Kovar explained.

North Korea then opened a microbrewery in the Rason Special Economic Zone in late 2013 and equipped it entirely with Czech-made appliances and hardware.

In addition to the equipment, Novotny explained that the ingredients – malt, hop, and yeast – were also imported from the Czech Republic.

In this effort, brewing technologist Novotny stayed in the North for six months, beginning last October, to teach two North Koreans what he knows about beer.

Novotny added, however, he does not know what the North plans to do once they use up the one-year supply of ingredients from his country.

So why is the impoverished country striving to improve the quality of its beer? It may be that better beer means better business.

While beer at the bar in Rason is free for locals, tourists must pay about 70 U.S. cents per pint, according to the North Korea-focused website NK News.

Pyongyang is also encouraging foreign visitors to take a tour of its various microbreweries, including the Rakwon Paradise , the Taedonggang Craft Brewery, and the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery.

The Czech company’s work on the Rason brewery has come to an end, and it does not intend to send more experts unless North Korea places additional orders.

This is not the first time North Korea used foreign expertise to build a brewery. The Taedonggang Craft Brewery in the eastern suburbs of Pyongyang is equipped with facilities bought from a British factory back in 2000. Its beer has received favorable reviews from foreign media, including the New York Times.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

 
 

Of course, nothing beats the 2011 Voice of America video news report and VOA press release about Pyongyang being described by VOA as a “vibrant city,” repeating North Korean anti-American propaganda with hardly any challenge from VOA and showing well-stocked stores and well-fed children of the North Korean elite without mentioning North Korean prison camps and malnutrition.

 
 

VOA and North Korea: Criticism of 2011 press release and VOA video describing Pyongyang as ‘vibrant city’

 
BBG Watch Commentary
 

…we recall our earlier criticism of top VOA executives for their news handling policies and naive views of repressive regimes. A VOA executive who was so impressed with the VOA video describing Pyongyang as a “vibrant city” that he arranged for issuing a press release is still in charge of planning VOA news coverage of North Korea and Ukraine.

VOA and North Korea: Criticism of 2011 press release and VOA video describing Pyongyang as a vibrant city

BBG Watch (2011) BBG Watch, an independent website run by former and current Broadcasting Board of Governors employees, wonders who signed off on the press release on the BBG official website, BBG.gov, quoting a Voice of America journalist who just completed a rare reporting assignment to North Korea, as saying that the country’s capital city Pyongyang is “vibrant and busy with activity.”

“Relative to what?” — BBG Watch wonders — “the Gulag? What are they smoking, or have we missed the opening of a new shopping mall with chic boutiques in downtown Pyongyang? Apparently, we did,” says BBG Watch. The VOA press release, issued earlier, even has a photo of a well-stocked store.

Keep in mind that North Korea has one of the most repressive regimes in the world, but you wouldn’t know it reading the press release on the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ website. At the BBG they have not yet heard of a Potyomkin village, says BBG Watch.
 


 

Link to the video on YouTube.

A VOA correspondent report from Pyongyang includes a video which is devoted largely to repeating North Korean anti-American propaganda claims with almost no attempt to counter any of them in any substantive way. The video ends with a saleswoman dancing for the VOA reporter in a modern-looking store in Pyongyang.

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VOICE OF AMERICA PRESS RELEASE [One of the original press releases showed a photo of a well-stocked North Korean shop which was featured in the VOA video. A second photo in the press release is no longer loading from the VOA server.]

 

VOA Reporter Gets Rare Glimpse of Life in North Korea

 
Officials appeared to be conveying a message that they want to improve strained relations with the United States.
 

A man reads the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper in Pyongyang.

A man reads the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official newspaper in Pyongyang.


 
Kyle King
 
September 27, 2011
 

Voice of America journalist Sungwon Baik, who just completed a rare reporting assignment to North Korea, says officials there appeared to be conveying a message that they want to improve strained relations with the United States.

Baik was granted access to North Korea earlier this month, after receiving an unprecedented written invitation by North Korean officials, to cover the 17th International Taekwon-Do World Championships in Pyongyang from September 6th through the 12th.

North Korean officials at the event said on a number of occasions that they were familiar with VOA broadcasts and that the news programs are well recognized.  “The first time I thought they were just trying to be polite to me,” Baik said, “but then it was like 6 or 7 times a day they would say that VOA is very important and you can come back.”

In addition to his reporting on the taekwon-do championships, Baik was allowed to walk around Pyongyang and ride the subway, but always accompanied by an official.  He describes the city (click here) as vibrant and busy with activity.

Baik, whose reports aired live on the VOA Korean Service during the taekwon-do competition, interviewed a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, Chang Ung, who expressed hope the event would be a turning point in relations with the United States and could pave the way for future cultural and sports exchanges.

For more information about this release or to arrange an interview with Sungwon Baik, contact Kyle King in Washington at kking@voanews.com.  Visit www.voanews.com for more information in English or in any of our language services. END OF VOA PRESS RELEASE

 

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