(NEW YORK) — As North Korea successfully launched its three-stage rocket into space Wednesday, the small country’s public learned the news from excited, but unknown anchor — one that only the top brass in the country, likely including Kim Jung Un, know the name of.
The Unha rocket was launched from the Sohae launch pad in Tongchang-ri, northwest of Pyongyang. North Korea insists the launch is simply part of an effort to develop a peaceful space program, but many argue that it raises the specter of the small country’s ability to eventually strike other countries.
The anchor who read the news is one of several new, younger faces that are gracing the screens of North Korean TV. As soon as the success of the rocket’s launch was clear, delighted spectators across the country cheered.
The effusive, animated news reading brought back memories of the famous announcer, Ri Chun-hee, who dramatically sobbed while breaking the news of death of Kim Jong Il last year. Ri had been the chief presenter of Korean Central Television since 1974, but just over a month after making that tearful announcement of “Dear Leader’s” death, Ri announced her retirement as broadcaster at KCTV.
Ri was highly praised by late- Kim Jong Il in his days, and was given a “People’s Hero” title by the deceased leader.
North Korean news shows have been frequently ridiculed by the outside world for alternating between stoic facial expressions, emphatic shouting, and costume-assisted demonstrations. Footage used on the programs has also been heavily mocked for showing endless video of leaders visiting factories, armies and amusement parks.
Visible changes in style are now becoming apparent, however, and North Korean news is starting to look more modern. Younger announcers, colorful western jackets, new studios equipped with wide screens, and many more interviews and sound bites from everyday North Koreans are all becoming the norm. Reporters are now even trying show-and-tell stand-ups, talking in normal, conversational tone.
The new faces of state television reportedly receive star treatment from the government. Jang Jin Sung, a poet and North Korea defector, told ABC News that prominent announcers are awarded an apartment and a luxury vehicle by government leadership.
North Korean announcers have also generally gone from old to younger. The female announcers’ outfits also showed modern fashion from traditional costume to colorful red or pink jackets.
But for now, exactly who these new announcers are, will remain a mystery.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Sophie Eastaugh, CNN Newswire