North Korea leaves us guessing

Big Issue’s weekly task is to highlight what’s on the radar – but once in a while we need to look at what’s off the radar. The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island left journalists staring down an information black hole known as North Korea. “The news media simply does not know why North Korea bombarded the island,” writes Tom Fenton in GlobalPost.

China’s media coverage was predictably soft on the North, while American commentators were predictably distracted by a Sarah Palin gaffe on the subject. Across the pond, the Guardian live-blogged the bombardment, providing some immediacy. The big question remained: how serious is this? The Telegraph predicted World War III, while  a South Korean commentator guessed the shelling was a mere set piece in Dear Leader’s succession plans. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail parsed a painting for answers. It was our first glimpse inside the enigma since a Canadian reporter’s accidental tour at the World Cup.  

Obviously, we should know more than we do. The BBC’s country profile is a start. For the official North Korean perspective, Uriminsokkiri publishes online in English and – we’re not making this up – recently opened a Twitter account, @uriminzok. The country’s underground citizen journalists provide the unofficial perspective. As for Canada’s role, the Globe and Mail recently uncovered our official obligations in the event of war. And of course – as with all things these days – there are some revealing WikiLeaks in the mix.

(Kim Jong Il touring a new apartment complex. Photo: KCNA)