The media, war and North Korea: How ‘yellow journalism’ injects fear into society

There has been a revival of international (especially Australian) media interest in recent weeks regarding North Korea (DPRK) and its nuclear and missiles program.

News Corp, Fairfax, ABC, Channel 7, Channel 9 — you name it — are reporting on the possibilities of war between North Korea and the West, and a nuclear missile attack on Australia.

But is there legitimate substance behind these reports?


North Korea threatens to nuke Australia: report

– SBS News


North Korea threatens nuclear war with Australia

– Daily Mail


Donald Trump puts Australia on North Korean rocket alert

– Daily Telegraph


‘Unpredictable’ North Korea could hit Australia with missile within two years: US diplomat

– Channel 7 News


North Korea threatens nuclear strike against Australia if it doesn’t stop ‘blindly toeing US line’

– ABC News


These news organisations make it seem like North Korea are about to instigate World War Three.

Labelling the country as ‘unpredictable’ is also a tiring cliche — North Korea has been drawing attention to itself for years in aims to intimidate the West.

So what’s changed?

Well, it’s the first time Australia has seriously engaged in the debacle — media reports suggest a North Korean spokesperson ‘threatened’ Australia, just days following Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pledged support for the US change of strategy towards the rogue state.

Pyongyang spokesperson:


‘If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK.’


Is there any substantive evidence that North Korea (who effortlessly remind us they are global threat) … are actually of any realistic threat, particularly to Australia?

Its history and current capability suggest no.

So why are Australian news sources sensationalising the possibility of a nuclear strike, which currently appears novel at best?


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North Korea Victory Day | Image: Stefan Krasowski

Let’s remember that since the late 1990s, North Koreans have undertaken a series of long-range missile tests which have all failed.

The North Korean media, who deliberately draw international attention to their country, either remained silent about launches or claimed success.

While there remains North Korea’s successful 2012 satellite launch — a chain of failures since further questions the program’s reliability.

The bigger picture suggests North Korea may eventually develop stronger and reliable weaponry — but for a country working in isolation, it will take much longer (than mainstream media suggests) to develop the technology and capability to strike Australia (in the past they have relied on stealing Soviet missile blueprints).


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North Korean elites realise the only way to protect their regime from global scrutiny is to continue developing military capability | Image: Vietnam Mobiography

From a North Korean perspective it feels like the entire world is against them (which is mostly true), so it’s understandable why its people and political elites are committed in developing superior military capability — the country desires to secure its regime from the outside world.

But no matter what its spokespersons and officials are ordered to say, North Korea currently has neither a long-range missile delivery system, nor reliable nuclear devices capable of striking Australia.


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40 percent of North Korea’s population live below the poverty line | Image: Roman Harak

North Korea is poor, isolated and desperate to keep their unique regime alive in an international environment that so heavily despises of it — developing the technology to protect their regime will cost the country valuable time, and money.

The majority of state funds are spent on its nuclear program while social institutions are overlooked — The Borgen Project reports 40 percent of the population (about 24 million people) live below the poverty line, with most workers earning $2 to $3 per month.

Professor John Blaxland, the acting head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), said the possibility of a strike hitting Australia remained a long way off.

This will be the case for a number of years, if not closer to a decade.

So is there legitimate substance behind triggering fear among the Australian community, or should we rather be reinforcing the idea that Australia is secure?

Stay wary of ‘yellow journalism’, clickbait headlines, and how they fabricate unwarranted fear.

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