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North Korea's KCNA marks 60 years of insight, insults

Written by: Staff

SEOUL, Dec 5 (Reuters) North Korea's KCNA news agency today turned 60 with a record of providing the world some of its closest glimpses on the secretive state ranging from reports on its nuclear programme to magicians juggling fish in Pyongyang.

Short for the Korean Central News Agency, KCNA is read by government and intelligence officials around the globe for an insight into what is happening in one of the world's most reclusive states.

The North's official news agency, with a flair for heated rhetoric, provides some of the most bizarre stories of any news agency, a seemingly daily rant against the United States or Japan as well as a limitless litany of insults for global leaders opposed to Pyongyang.

''South Korean experts on the North and other experts all over the world concentrate on what KCNA has to say and delve deeply into its reports,'' said Paik Hak-soon, the director of the centre of North Korean studies at Sejong Institute, south of Seoul.

One US intelligence official described the agency as a guilty pleasure.

An example of its offerings on October 9 included word from North Korea that it had conducted its first nuclear test as well as noting leader Kim Jong-il received a floral basket from the family of a revolutionary martyr and Russian dancing girls performed in Pyongyang as part of a down-with-imperialism gala.

The Web site NK News (www.nk-news.net), maintains a database of KCNA as well as a random insult generator plucked from KCNA's most florid prose.

INSULT GENERATOR Ready to be insulted? Here is what KCNA has said: ''You bellicose militarist, we will annihilate you with a fresh revolutionary upswing!''. ''You swollen-headed aggressor, we will resolutely smash your desperate war moves!''. ''You psychopathological flunkey.'' Some of the North's most important communications with the outside world come when KCNA cites what a spokesman with the Foreign Ministry has to say.

Kim is almost never directly quoted, but his exploits abound in its reports.

In just the past week, Kim has been credited with making sure there has not been a single case of AIDS in North Korea as well as providing field guidance to farmers about how to build homes.

He was also described as ''a peerless patriot who has brought the eternal prosperity of the country with 'songun' (the North's military-first policy)''.

KCNA, which provides news in Korean, English and Spanish and is available on the Web site www.kcna.co.jp, also gathers an eclectic collection of the impoverished state's accomplishments.

Yesterday, it celebrated the construction of a new sweet potato processing factory. ''Sweet potato has been used in people's dietary life in Korea since olden times,'' it said.

KCNA celebrated a magic show in Pyongyang in October where performers dazzled crowds by juggling fish. It frequently gushes over the accomplishments of rabbit, goat and ostrich farmers.

For 60 years, KCNA said it has been ''conducting dynamic media campaign to closely unite all the people around the Workers Party of Korea and arouse them to the revolution.'' REUTERS SHB BD1233

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