Imagining Headlines From New AP Bureau in Pyongyang: The Ticker

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By William Pesek

Depending on your view of the world, sense of adventure and love of life's creature comforts, it's the best job in journalism or the worst: Pyongyang bureau chief.

For now, The Associated Press is staffing international newsgathering's first full-time North Korea office with two locals. It may be a reach to think the Hermit Kingdom would welcome two foreigners so soon after Kim Jong Il's death.

Few news beats will be more important as the late Dear Leader's son, Kim Jong Un, struggles to keep the Kim Dynasty alive. And perhaps none will be more frustrating as Pyongyang's propaganda machine kicks into high gear to craft a cult of personality for Kim the younger.

Supposedly, Kim's dad had a supernatural birth, invented the hamburger, didn't defecate and was history's greatest golfer; he's said to have shot 11 holes-in-one the very first time he played Pyongyang's first golf course. Imagine what myths will pad Kim Jong Un's resume. We already know he was driving by age 3. What's next -- he mastered the periodic table, learned Portuguese and perfected cold fusion before kindergarten?

Our friends at AP will have their hands full discerning what is fact and fiction. If we can't trust Japan's radiation readings, Greece's debt figures or China's pollution data, imagine the trust deficit in Pyongyang. Of the many headlines AP staffers might snap in the months ahead, here are a few that would provide big insights into what's afoot in the most isolated nation:

Kim Jong Un Runs 1-Hour Marathon, Breaking World Record

A headline of this nature would show the state-run Korea Central News Agency is busily building Kim's mystique with fanciful claims and that he may go the distance.

Tanks Surround Kim Jong Un's Compound, Shots Fired

Many skeptics wonder whether North Korea's military leaders will decide that two Kim's were enough. A new book, based on interviews with Kim Jong-Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, argues North Korea's impoverished government is highly vulnerable.

Hillary Clinton Meets Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang

This flash would cheer those pondering a "Myanmar Effect," whereby North Korea changes course and opens up to the world. After all, it's working for the folks in Rangoon.

North Korea Calls Americans 'Evil Swine,' Demands Aid

This would be a reminder that it is business as usual in North Korea, which means it's still anyone's guess what's happening there.

(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist.)

-0- Jan/19/2012 16:51 GMT