The New York Philharmonic held a concert in North Korea earlier this week, and the Wall Street Journal focused its story on the spontaneous five-minute applause that occurred at the end of the concert, where there was a lot of clapping, waving and even cheering. The article went on to talk about the lengths that the North Korean government went to in order to prepare for the visitors, and the connections that the musicians felt with the attendees, even as it mentioned the political issues.
By contrast, it was interesting to watch this morning’s news on Japanese television, where there was no mention of the encores at the end, but showed face after face of grim-faced North Koreans during the concert, clapping solemnly. The Japanese network used the images as a way to point out that North Koreans were just acting according to instructions by the government, and how some of the tenseness (and Kim Jong-Il’s lack of appearance) reflected the problems of U.S.-North Korea relations. That evolved into a discussion about how screwed up things were.
Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as impartial coverage, but I found it to be an interesting example where this was very evident. The truth might be somewhere in the middle of the two interpretations, but I was startled by the degree of manipulation on the Japanese network.