North Korean state TV gets a little carried away in rocket-launch coverage

December 12, 2012

How excited is North Korean's official news agency about the country's first-ever successful launch of a satellite into orbit? I don't understand Korean, but the sheer elation in this KCNA report is impossible to miss. The TV host's initial announcement is followed with 30 seconds of swelling music over footage of a mountain sunrise. Then there's more exuberance from the host, who speaks – shouts, really – in near sing-song. North Korea-watcher Martyn Williams says this video aired at 12:05 p.m. Wednesday, local time.

State-run KCNA also aired this video, in which a loudspeaker-laden van blares the announcement into some near-empty Pyongyang streets. As the New York Times' Robert Mackey points out, it looks like it's mostly just a professional dance troupe celebrating in the streets, though a few onlookers clap and dance along.

It's a weird scene from – there's no getting around this – a very weird place. The Associated Press reports from its Pyongyang bureau, the only Western news office allowed in North Korea, on the mood in the city:

In Pyongyang, however, pride over the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Korea, though struggling to feed its people, is now one of the few countries to have successfully launched a working satellite into space from its own soil; bitter rival South Korea is not on the list, though it has tried.

“It’s really good news,” North Korean citizen Jon Il Gwang told The Associated Press as he and scores of other Pyongyang residents poured into the streets after a noon announcement to celebrate the launch by dancing in the snow. “It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space.”

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Max Fisher · December 12, 2012