ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
89°
Very Hot
H 95° L 70°
  • cloudy-day
    89°
    Current Conditions
    Very Hot. H 95° L 70°
  • very-hot
    95°
    Today
    Very Hot. H 95° L 70°
  • very-hot
    95°
    Tomorrow
    Very Hot. H 95° L 73°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

World
Eric Talmadge, AP's North Korea bureau chief, dead at 57
Close

Eric Talmadge, AP's North Korea bureau chief, dead at 57

Eric Talmadge, AP's North Korea bureau chief, dead at 57
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E
This Monday, May 9, 2016 photo shows The Associated Press' North Korea Bureau Chief Eric Talmadge in front of the April 25 House of Culture where the party congress is held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Talmadge, who tenaciously chronicled life and politics in North Korea, one of the world’s least-understood nations, died after suffering a heart attack in Japan. He was 57. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Eric Talmadge, AP's North Korea bureau chief, dead at 57

Eric Talmadge, who as North Korea bureau chief for The Associated Press tenaciously chronicled life and politics in one of the world's least-understood nations, has died. He was 57.

Talmadge died this week in Japan after suffering a heart attack while running.

A decades-long resident of Japan with deep expertise on Asian security and military issues, Talmadge seemed to have found his ideal job when he was appointed in 2013 to lead the AP bureau in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. From his base in Tokyo, he traveled almost monthly to report on the nuclear-armed country's remarkable evolution under its young leader, Kim Jong Un, who took over after his father died in 2011.

"For years, Eric's sharp work in North Korea has helped shape how the entire world saw a country that many of us knew little about," said Sally Buzbee, AP's executive editor. "He took that responsibility very seriously, and it was never far from his mind."

Talmadge was one of only a few international journalists with regular access to North Korea, where the AP established a video news office in 2006 and a text and photo bureau in 2012. With his frequently exclusive on-the-ground view, Talmadge latched onto and reveled in the small, telling details that upended widespread Western stereotypes about North Korea.

There were few journalists more insightful about the North's push to develop atomic weapons capable of striking the United States. But Talmadge also filled the AP wire with stylishly written stories of daily life, often seeded with traces of his bone-dry sense of humor.

He wrote about a beer festival in Pyongyang, where "brews are cheap and carry the ruling family's seal of approval." He wrote about the millions of North Koreans using mobile phones and the popularity of a game called "Boy General," describing it as "a spinoff of a new TV animation series that is both beautifully produced and genuinely fun to watch."

His intelligent, curious eye also regularly seized on the moments that often got lost or ignored in the frenzied coverage of the long-running nuclear standoff between Washington and Pyongyang. "He saw meaning in everything he came across," said Ian Phillips, AP's vice president for international news.

In 2014, Talmadge wrote of a weeklong road trip through North Korea — unprecedented for foreign reporters — that stopped at the forest-covered Kaema Plateau, known as the "Roof of Korea."

He showed readers the "blink-and-you-miss-them villages," the government propaganda slogans that covered posters, murals, banners and stones, and the isolated truck stops where elderly folks sat on weed-covered embankments and smoked hand-rolled cigarettes.

"It's quite possible," he wrote, that "none of them had ever seen an American before."

Talmadge was equally probing when it came to covering politics and nuclear tensions. His muscular observations and analysis about the country were drawn from reporting that faced frequent obstacles from a government that sometimes treated media access and coverage as a peril to the regime. Along the way, he became one of the key public faces of independent journalism in North Korea.

Talmadge was candid about the constraints of reporting in North Korea: No interviewing random people; no photos of checkpoints or military installations; no breaking away from ever-present government minders, "even on the loneliest of lonely highways."

In an example of the clear-eyed wit that often appeared in even his most technical reporting on military hardware, he wrote that the road trip's preapproved route, "to no one's surprise, didn't include nuclear facilities or prison camps."

Ted Anthony, who as AP's Asia-Pacific news director supervised Talmadge from 2014 to 2018 and accompanied him on multiple trips to Pyongyang, said Talmadge once warned him: "Don't ever think you really understand the North. It has more corners than anyplace I've ever been."

"Eric was utterly certain that with enough work and curiosity and stick-to-it-iveness, he could genuinely help the world understand North Korea. And he did," Anthony said. "He wanted to reach people who'd never really thought much about the country, and he would pull out all the stops to show them the North Korea they never knew existed, and make them think critically about it."

Born in Renton, Washington, Talmadge spent much of his life in Japan, where he was a high-school exchange student. Fluent in Japanese, he appeared often on Japanese TV as a commentator on North Korea. He was an avid bowler and meditator, and loved riding his bike and swimming. He was the author of a 2006 book, "Getting Wet: Adventures in the Japanese Bath." He is survived by his wife, Hisako, and two grown children, Sara and Eugene.

Talmadge joined the AP in Tokyo in 1988 after working for the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan's national newspapers.

He reported throughout Asia for the AP and was a major contributor to the news agency's award-winning coverage of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and the nuclear disaster that happened in its aftermath.

Before becoming Pyongyang bureau chief, he led a team of AP journalists focused on military and security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, while also serving as the news editor for the Tokyo bureau.

But Talmadge seemed especially suited to reporting in North Korea. His Instagram and Twitter accounts were filled with images of cute kids mobbing him in Pyongyang on their way home from school, with shots of the city's pizza delivery services and aerobics classes and, of course, with video of mesmerizing rows of goose-stepping soldiers.

One video tweet from Yokohama, where he made his home, showed sightseeing boats gliding beneath the ephemeral cherry blossoms of early spring: "Because everything isn't about where I have to go for work."

Talmadge's sense of humor shone through even in his internal AP memos on the Pyongyang bureau's operations. A picture of a chain-smoking 19-year-old chimpanzee mentions dryly that the ape smokes about a pack a day: The Pyongyang zoo officials "insist, however, that she doesn't inhale."

Wong Maye-E, who worked alongside Talmadge during the five years she spent as chief photographer for North Korea, remembers sitting in their hotel in Pyongyang during a power outage one night, decompressing after a tough day's reporting, the room's windows thrown open and Steely Dan playing on Talmadge's phone as they watched the blinking lights from the flashlights of people going up and down the stairwells of nearby apartment buildings.

"He was very patient in a place that really tests your patience," Wong said.

Talmadge continually pushed to expand the AP's presence in the North, negotiating with the government for more and longer reporting trips and better access. He prided himself on keeping his stories free of the clichés about North Korea so prevalent in outside media.

"I think there is a tendency abroad to caricature North Korea in ways that aren't constructive, and to resort to dismissiveness or mockery much too easily," Talmadge told The Washington Post in 2015. "During my time there, I have been surprised, and reassured in a way, to see how average North Koreans care about the same things everybody else does — their family, their finances, their health, their friends, how to get by."

And, he said, his immersion in the North made him appreciate even more his life outside the country.

"Every time I come back home, I wake up the first morning thinking, 'I can go anywhere I want today,'" he told the Post. "I could go to the beach, I could go see a movie, I could get on a plane and go to Florida if I wanted. Even if, in the end, I just stay home and eat potato chips on the couch, it's a very liberating feeling. I don't take it for granted anymore."

___

Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Tokyo contributed to this report.

___

To see a selection of Talmadge's photos from North Korea and elsewhere: https://www.instagram.com/erictalmadge/

Read More

News

  • Detroit police are searching for the gunman who shot and killed a teenager Saturday over his expensive glasses, according to news reports. >> Read more trending news  The deadly robbery over a pricey pair of Cartier glasses happened on the city’s east side at a gas station, WXYZ-TV reported. The teen was first transported to a local hospital where he was listed in temporary serious condition, but he later died of his injuries. The shooter jumped into the rear seat of a red Chevrolet Cobalt with three other men inside after shooting the teen, the news station reported. >> Related: Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee allegedly suffered elder abuse; former manager arrested Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the gunman. He’s described as an African American man between 20 and 25 years old with a slim build, weighing around 175 pounds.  
  • Two huge boulders crashed onto a highway in southwest Colorado about 12 miles north of Delores in Montezuma County on Friday, shutting down the road indefinitely until crews can remove the rocks. >> Read more trending news  The rocks, weighing a combined 10 million pounds, plummeted off a cliff some 850 feet above Colorado Highway 145, according to KCNC-TV. One of the boulders is as large as house, an official with the Colorado Department of Transportation told KUSA-TV. The rocks destroyed the highway pavement and created a trench 8 feet deep, CDOT said on social media. The regional transportation director for CDOT in southwest Colorado, Mike McVaugh said repair crews were surprised when they arrived at the scene. “They sent a plow truck out, they sent a supervisor out. They showed up on-site and they were like, ‘That’s not going to work. We’ve got some really big rocks here,’” McVaugh recounted.  >> Trending: Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee allegedly suffered elder abuse; former manager arrested Highway crews are working to repair the road but will have to blast the larger rock into smaller pieces to remove it. Meanwhile, CO 145 between Cortez and Telluride will remain closed.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, you should hop on the scale daily, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from the University of Georgia recently conducted a study, published in the Obesity journal, to determine the benefits of daily self-weighing during the holiday season. To do so, they split 111 adults, aged 18 to 65, into two groups. One group was required to avoid weight gain and to weigh themselves daily on scales that also provided graphical feedback on their weight fluctuations. Those in the control group were given no instructions at all. After analyzing the results, the subjects who weighed themselves daily maintained or lost weight during and after the holiday season. However, those in the control group gained weight.  >> Related: Muscle-building protein shakes linked to weight gain, depression in new study “Maybe they exercise a little bit more the next day (after seeing a weight increase) or they watch what they're eating more carefully,” co-author Jamie Cooper said in a statement. “The subjects self-select how they're going to modify their behavior, which can be effective because we know that interventions are not one-size-fits-all.” She also said, “People are really sensitive to discrepancies or differences between their current selves and their standard or goal. When they see that discrepancy, it tends to lead to behavioral change. Daily self-weighing ends up doing that for people in a really clear way.” The scientists believe the subjects may have also changed their behavioral patterns, because they knew their weight would be recorded daily. They said their study was a form of intervention, it was effective because of its simplicity and adaptability.  >> Related: Intermittent fasting pros and cons: Should nurses try it? The team now hopes future investigations will assess self-weighing using scales that do not provide additional feedback. 
  • Officials said Interstate 77 southbound in Charlotte, North Carolina, was briefly shut down after a fire engulfed a bus. One person was killed and four others were hospitalized with non-life- threatening injuries. >> Read more trending news  The incident happened at about 2:15 p.m. Sunday. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol told WSOC that a private bus crashed into a wall when attempting to exit the freeway. Trooper Ray Pierce told WSOC the deceased victim is an 82-year-old woman. He said one of the four people injured is in serious condition. Pierce said the bus caught fire after hitting the wall. WSOC confirmed the bus belongs to Victory Christian Center in Charlotte.
  • Memorial Day weekend is a time of reflection, travel and time with friends and family, but it can also be a dangerous time for drinking and driving. KRCR reported that the California Highway Patrol said in a tweet Sunday afternoon that there have been 741 DUI arrests this weekend so far. The arrests come as CHP has entered a maximum enforcement period, which started at 6 p.m. local time Friday and will last through Monday at 11:59 p.m. local time. >> Read more trending news  “There’s no excuse for driving impaired. Stay Put. Call a cab or ride share,” the  law enforcement agency said in a tweet. “Arrange for a sober driver in advance. Stop putting your life and the lives of innocent people at risk.” In addition to finding alternate means of transportation when drinking, CHP is reminding people to use seat belts. The agency said at least eight people died in a crash within the first six hours of the maximum enforcement period for the holiday weekend. CHP said more than half of those who died were not wearing seat belts. “One of the simplest things a person can do to stay safe is to buckle up,” CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said in a Tuesday statement. “Not only does the law require vehicle occupants to wear a seat belt, but it helps protect against injury or death.”
  • Authorities in Dawson County are trying to find a man who they say walked away during a work detail.  Jeremy Pruitt-Akins, 29, was in in custody on a work release Saturday, the sheriff’s office said. Authorities said Pruit-Akins did not return to the Dawson County Detention Center at the end of his shift.  The sheriff’s office said he might be heading to Colorado by bus, but authorities aren’t sure if he went to the Gainesville or Atlanta bus station.  Officials believe he might be with Lea Marie Nichole Propst, 27. According to the sheriff’s office Pruitt-Akins has no pending charges, but there is an active escape warrant out against him. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is urged to contact the Dawson sheriff’s office at 706-344-3636. In other news: