AP word cloud: the message in the Pyongyang propaganda


TOKYO – Kim. Nuclear. War.

Nothing sums up the message embedded in the propaganda of North Korea better than those three words. That is exactly what the world hears, and what is revealed in this cloud of words, a visual display of the terms used by the English service of the Korea Central News Agency.

The Associated Press reduced 1,542 stories between July 1 and October 11 by the official North Korean news agency to a list of the 183 most frequently occurring words. The resulting word cloud reveals some of the key patterns that Pyongyang employs in its rhetorical wars with Washington.

Equally important, it reflects the way in which the government wants to be seen by the outside world.


& # 39; KIM & # 39; Y & # 39; NUCLEAR & # 39;

The first conclusion (no surprise) is that the North Korean propagandists spend most of their time acclaiming leader Kim Jong Un.

The appearance of his surname in the KCNA reports 2,793 times, much more than "nuclear" in 1671, is the predictable result of the inescapable northern cult of personality.

The reverence is deeper. Although it does not appear in the word cloud, when the North Korean media mentions the name of the leader or the names of his father and grandfather, they use a special source reserved especially for that purpose. Even the dates on the pages of the ruling party's newspaper come from a calendar that counts the years in terms of the birth of Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung. This year in North Korea is not 2017; it's "Juche 106".

On the contrary, the frequency of "nuclear" is overwhelming due to the relatively narrow range of contexts in which it is used.

The main mission of the North Korean media is the chronicle of Kim Jong The frequent trips of "guide in place" of Un, the piles of laurels he receives from foreign dignitaries, the devotional vows of his compatriots. "War", the third most common word in the AP cloud, is also used not only when talking about an impending conflict with the United States, but in relation to the historical one: the 1950-53 Korean War, which uses the North Korean propaganda. as the main example of imperialism and American barbarism.

"Nuclear", however, is almost always used in two ways.

It is cited in defense of the development of nuclear weapons of the North as an act of self-defense, or in threats that Pyongyang is willing and ready to use them to counter the "nuclear" blackmail of the United States. That this shows so much testifies to how obsessive the North's rhetorical defenses of its nuclear program really are.



A warning is likely to be in order at this point.

When it comes to the propaganda of North Korea, the clouds of words produce a more impressionistic than scientific image. The best way to see this is like a Polaroid snapshot. It is a bit blurry at the edges and a higher resolution would certainly be useful. But for anyone who pays much attention to politics in the North, words fall more or less where expected.

"Party" and "military", for example, are among the highest level nouns (as a result, they are larger than other words) along with the honorific ones that are frequently used in relation to Kim and his ancestors. "Sanctions," a primary target of Pyongyang's rage, is also among the top 10. The stories about bouquets offered in monuments to the leaders are a staple in KCNA, explaining the rather strong demonstration of "floral", and the allies of the US. UU They are usually described as "marionettes", another robust interpreter.

Of course, this word cloud does not show all the words that KCNA used. Using a common practice called "summaries", we excluded words like "the", "an" and "whatever" for a basic reason: they were generic words that did not add any real meaning to the graphic representation. Other discarded words included basic numbers ("three", "seven") and procedural terms whose appearance would have offered little general information ("government", "periodic").

For this word cloud, countries and cities were also excluded (although it is worth noting that the United States was the second most mentioned after North Korea itself).



And then there are the most recent newspaper additions.

ICBM – abbreviation of intercontinental ballistic missile – made 475 appearances in the more than 1,500 KCNA English stories between July and October that were badyzed, a period that saw the North launch missiles at a record pace. Hwasong, the name that North Korea grants to most of its long-range missiles, appeared 271 times.

President Donald Trump, in spite of being the greatest villain in the eyes of the North, figures in the mix a little less than one would expect.

With 388 mentions, it falls short of "imperialists" (454), the most generic term for KCNA for Americans. "Lunatic" and "dotard", which are emerging as KCNA's favorite adjectives for Trump, are still breaking and have not been established enough to be on the list of the 100 best. Trump's hitch with Kim Jong Un did not really work until the end of August, which could also explain the few appearances.

And what about "justice", "friendship", "dignity"? to the display of words, unfortunately, but perhaps not unexpectedly, they remain relegated to the fuzzy edge.


Associated Press designer Penny Yi Wang in Bangkok produced the word cloud for this story using Voyant Tools. Eric Talmadge, the writer, has been the head of the Pyongyang office of the PA since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @erictalmadge

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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