In addition to Korean, KCNA releases news translated into English, Russian, and Spanish. Access to its website, along with other North Korean news sites, has been blocked by South Korea since 2004 and can be accessed only through the government's authorization. As well as serving as a news agency, it also produces summaries of world news to North Korean officials. It is also alleged to conduct clandestine intelligence collection.
According to its website, KCNA "speaks for the Workers' Party of Korea and the DPRK government". The agency has been described as the "official organ." In June 1964 on one of his first official activities, Kim Jong-il visited KCNA headquarters and said the agency should be "propagating the revolutionary ideology of the Leader (Kim Il-sung) widely throughout the world." However, the agency is also said to offer a unique insight into the North Korean "mentality."
A talk given to officials at KCNA on June 12, 1964, outlines the function of the news agency:
In order to become a powerful ideological weapon of our Party, the Korean Central News Agency must provide a news service in accordance with the idea and intention of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, establish Juche firmly in its work and fully embody the Party spirit, the working class spirit and the spirit of serving the people. It must pay serious attention to each word, to each dot of the writings it releases because they express the standpoint of our Party and the Government of our Republic.
Under the principle and guideline on the work of ideological propaganda and agitation put by the country's ruling party, the Workers' Party of Korea, the agency generally reports only good news about the country that is intended to encourage its people and project a positive image abroad. Nonetheless, it has on occasion acknowledged food shortages in the country. The Ryongchon disaster was also reported in April 2004, after a delay of two days. KCNA has a sports team in the annual Paektusan Prize Games of Civil Servants.
The last know Director General of KCNA was Kim Ki-ryong. Kim Ki-ryong died on the 30th of March 2017 in Pyongyang, North Korea.
KCNA articles generally revolve on several specific themes (examples in reference section):
Detailing performances of cultural events, usually attended by various dignitaries.
Decrying the actions and attitudes of the United States,Japan,South Korea and other nations, particularly concerning military cooperation, historical events or trade among those nations. Personal attacks on American, Japanese and South Korean leaders are not unknown.
Communications, visits and gifts (it does not name the particular gift) to and from various like-minded or friendly nations. Regarding the number of gifts, KCNA claimed that former leader Kim Il-sung receives "2,910 a year, 243 a month and 8 a day."
Emphasizing the names of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un by enlarging their names on the text.
References to institutes, groups or centres "for the study of the Juche idea". For example, a KCNA report from June 12, 2011 claimed that "The Brazilian Center for the Study of the Juche Idea was inaugurated with due ceremony at Sao Paulo University on June 4". The article also refers to an unnamed "chairman" (who presumably presided over the ceremony), but this supposed event was not reported by a source other than KCNA as of the date of the article (eight days after the ceremony was alleged to have occurred).
KCNA employs negative language, such as "traitors", "warmongers" or "human scum", for governments (especially South Korea and the United States), organisations or individuals, who are critical of the North Korean government. In contrast, Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung are attributed with positive characteristics such as "outstanding wisdom", "unique abilities" or "noble virtue".
New Year orials
As a tradition since 1996, KCNA, along with the three main state run newspapers in North Korea, publishes a joint New Year orial that outlines the country's policies for the year. The orials usually offer praise for the Songun policy, the government and leadership, and encourage the growth of the nation. They are also critical of the policies of South Korea, Japan, the United States and Western governments towards the country.
On January 1, 2006 the agency sent out a joint-orial from North Korea's state newspapers calling for the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. While annual January 1 orials are a tradition among the papers, that year's brought attention from Western media outlets, by calling for a "nationwide campaign for driving out the U.S. troops". The orial made several references to Korean reunification. The 2009 orial received similar attention, as criticism of United States policy was absent, and the admission of severe economic problems in the country. The orial also made reference to denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, in what analysts claimed was a "hopeful" sign. This was echoed again in its 2010 orial, which called for an end to hostilities with the United States and a nuclear free Korean Peninsula.
The 2011 joint orial ion, aside from its calls for a denuclearized Korea and for a slowdown of tensions between the two Koreas, has for the first time, mentioned the rising light industries of the DPRK, given as a reason for an upcoming upsurge in the national economy in the new year and for the achievement of the Kangsong Taeguk national mission.
The 2012 joint orial ion, the first under Kim Jong-un's leadership, started with a great tribute to Kim Jong-il and aside from recurring calls for improving inter-Korean relations and for the fulfillment of the October 4 Declaration of 2007, also called on the whole nation to give priority to do Kim Jong-il's 2012 mission of Strong and Prosperous Nation, continue his and his father Kim Il-sung's legacies to the entire country and the socialist cause, and to build up and encourage the various sectors that compose the nation to become contributors to national progress in all areas at all costs.
This practice ended in 2013 when Kim Jong-un delivered the first New Year speech on television in 19 years.
Following the purge and execution of Jang Song-thaek, KCNA conducted its largest censorship operation on its webpage. Some 35,000 articles of Korean-language original reporting were deleted. Counting translations, a total of 100,000 articles were removed. Additionally, some articles were ed to omit Jang's name. Not all of the deleted articles mentioned Jang directly.