The in’s and out’s of technology in North Korea (literally)

Last week I began researching the concept of ‘citizen journalism’ in the Democratic Republic of North Korea. Just how difficult and dangerous it is to smuggle information (not approved by the state of course) in and out of NK. It was this research that led me to the Japanese freelance journalist Ishimaru Jiro, and his courageous work smuggling footage and technology across the border from China. For my final project I will be researching North Korea’s digital underground, tracking and researching the flow of information and technologies across the Korean borders and around the globe (which I will hopefully display in a Prezi). When I first started further research for this topic I was prepared to start digging… compiling information from multiple sources that I had scavenged from the corners of the web. Turns out… it wasn’t as dramatic as this. In fact (just one Google search away, praise the lord for the Internet) I found a whole Channel 4 documentary on Ishimaru Jiro and inspiring defector ‘Mr. Chung’ trying to shake some of the propaganda out of North Korea. How? Through technology, information flows and pop culture (how relevant). 

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Channel 4’s ‘North Korea: Life Inside the Secret State’ (released November last year) covers the freelance journalists risking their freedom to secretly film ‘everyday’ life in North Korea, including devastating footage of the Korean street children known as Kkotjebi. The doco also follows ‘Mr.Chung’, a former inmate of a political prison camp who now smuggles USB sticks and DVD’s of South Korean Soap operas and Western movies into the country (apparently the bond movie Skyfall is the most popular amongst NK blokes). Foolproof: Mr. Chung poses as a mushroom farmer to transport the technologies across the border, where guards operate a shoot-to-kill policy. Chung believes that “The more people are exposed to such media the more likely they are to become disillusioned with the regime and start wanting to live differently”.

 

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I have been so interested in researching North Korea this week I seem to have neglected all of my other work. Since Kim Jong-un has come into power it seems his ‘loyal’ nation is beginning to slip through of his chubby fingers #sorrynotsorry. With defectors sharing their stories (check out Yeon-mi Park on dateline this week) and an influx of new technologies, pop-culture and ideals weaselling their way out from under the regimes big fat heavy boots, the people that inhabit the people’s republic of North Korea are beginning to speak up, back and out. Sadly, this has lead to an increase in political prisoners as surveillance and satellite images capture camps growth. During my research I have discovered some harrowing realities of human rights violations. Torture, imprisonment and starvation are still a major threat to North Koreans if they act out against the ‘great leader’ (I am still struggling to come to terms with most things that are going on in North Korea). However, this harsh control seems to only motivate dedicated NK defectors and citizens to fight for the decentralisation of their nation. Change is a’comin (in the next 5yrs apparently), and I want to know more about it!

Check out one of the many NK defectors residing in South Korea, who sends technology (as well as money and hope) over the South/North Korean border in balloons,

http://www.bloomberg.com/video/the-giant-balloons-smuggling-tech-into-north-korea-UxqADaE4T7G43tkL42AfPQ.html

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3 comments

  1. Hi, I am interested in journalism and freedom of information so I certainly found your post to be very intriguing. This sounds like a great topic to research further. Maybe you could find out if there are other NK journalists who are fighting against the regime? Here is a link to Reporters Without Borders who are devoted to anti-censorship so you might be able to find out more http://en.rsf.org/. Maybe you could also look at China’s role in this as well. How does this affect NK and China’s relationship? What do the Chinese people think about what is happening in North Korea via this ‘smuggled’ information. Great post

    – Caitlin

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  2. North Korea is best Korea.

    But seriously… Really cool that you are picking an out of the ordinary topic as apposed to everyone else. A few questions arise when reading your post. How easy is it for the NK journalists to bypass internet protocols and share information with the outside world. Moreover, how many people actually want to share this. As i’m sure you know a lot of the population are brainwashed into thinking well… North Korea is the best Korea.

    Check this three part video series out, it’s a really interesting watch!

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  3. North Korea offers the world a counterpoint to a nationalist reality. The way the regime of KIm Jong Un manipulates the perceptions of the people in his country is scary. For people to be so robbed of an information flow and then told that anything the see, hear or read from the outside world is a diabolical plan by the the imperial west to corrupt them, is depriving them of a fundemental human right – freedom.

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