North Korea’s Jang Song-thaek erased from web archives

Kim Jong-un’s uncle removed from online media reports since last week’s execution

North Korea’s state media have erased almost their entire online archives since the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle Jang Song-thaek.

The removal of tens of thousands of articles is the largest deletion ever carried out by the official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

Several reports mentioning Jang had already been edited to remove references to him and other aides, and footage had been cut so it no longer included him. But subsequently all articles from before October 2013 appeared to been removed from KCNA’s North Korea-hosted site. It is unclear whether they will be reposted or have disappeared for good.

The mass deletion was spotted by NK News, a website covering North Korea. Frank Feinstein, a New Zealand-based programmer who tracks online media for NK News, said: “There were 35,000 articles dated September 2013 or earlier on KCNA in Korean. If they’re leaving the odd one in, it’s still a kill ratio of 98-99 per cent.”


Translations in English, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese were also deleted, he added. Another 20,000 articles had vanished from the archives of Rodong Sinmun.

Chad O’Carroll, founder of NK News, said the “Orwellian” deletions appeared to have been done between last Friday and Saturday, following selective editing and deletion of articles mentioning Jang.

In the past there have been “20 or 30 articles that disappeared for no apparent reason, but nothing on this scale”, he said. “It will be very interesting to see whether the deletion sticks.”

While a Japanese-hosted KCNA site still has older archive material, O’Carroll said it was run from outside North Korea and has never carried all the agency’s material.

Only a tiny proportion of North Koreans have access to the internet, meaning that the web archives were used primarily by those outside the country.

Internally, information is tightly controlled by the regime; most economic statistics are classified as well as more obviously sensitive information.

Revising documents is also common. Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea, noted in his book The Real North Korea that when he lived in Pyongyang in the 1980s, "the authorities took care to isolate the populace not only from the foreign media but also from the official publications of earlier years".

– (Guardian service)