Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Oppressed Will See The Lies

The free flow of information has always been a problem for those who tyrannize their populations. It had a lot to do with the fall of the Soviet Union and the spread of freedom through eastern Europe. It is the free flow of information that is loosening the grip of the Communist government in China. Only leaders who can completely isolate their populations from outside information can hope to maintain their tyranny.

It how seems that the murderer-freak Kim Jong Il has run into a problem. In its March 15th edition the New York Times reports, How Electronics Are Penetrating North Korea's Isolation;
SEOUL, South Korea - Halfway through a video from North Korea, the camera pans on a propaganda portrait of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, magnificent in his general's dress uniform with gold epaulets. Scribbled in black ink across his smooth face is a demand for "freedom and democracy."

If genuine, the graffiti speaks of political opponents willing to risk execution to get their message out. If staged, the video means that a North Korean hustler was willing to deface a picture of the "Dear Leader" to earn a quick profit by selling it to a South Korean human rights group.

Either way, the 35-minute video is the latest evidence that new ways of thinking are stealing into North Korea, perhaps corroding the steely controls on ideology and information that have kept the Kim family in power for almost 60 years.
So, how does this happen?
The construction of cellular relay stations last fall along the Chinese side of the border has allowed some North Koreans in border towns to use prepaid Chinese cellphones to call relatives and reporters in South Korea, defectors from North Korea say. And after DVD players swept northern China two years ago, entrepreneurs collected castoff videocassette recorders and peddled them in North Korea. Now tapes of South Korean soap operas are so popular that state television in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, is campaigning against South Korean hairstyles, clothing and slang, visitors and defectors have said.

"In the 1960's in the Soviet Union, it was cool to wear blue jeans and listen to rock and roll," said Andrei Lankov, a Russian exchange student in the North at Kim Il Sung University in 1985, who now teaches about North Korea at Kookmin University here in the South. "Today, it is cool for North Koreans to look and behave South Korean, as they do in the television serials. That does not bode well for the long-term survival of the regime."
Things that we take for granted. Things that are ubiquitous in free (and not so free) societies and are viewed as essentially unimportant may have the power to shake loose the worst, most totalitarian regime in the world.
At a human rights conference here on Feb. 15, defectors estimated in interviews that about one-third of the defectors in South Korea regularly talk to family members back in North Korea, calling owners of prepaid Chinese cellphones at a prearranged time.

To counter this, North Korea has reportedly started border patrols using Japanese equipment that can track cellphone calls. Reporters tell stories of their contacts who only make calls from their private garden plots in the hills, burying the cellphone in the ground after each call.

While Chinese cellphones only work a few miles inside North Korea, the videocassette phenomenon has reportedly spread throughout the nation, reaching into every area where there is electricity.
Read the article to learn about the videotapes and how the government is trying to move against them. This is not trivial. Prisons in the DPRK exist to kill slowly, as we have seen in earlier posts. As soon as I figure out how to host it, I will post video of the trials and executions of people convicted of helping other people cross the Chinese border (the trials last about twenty minutes with the executions immediately after - the posts to which the prisoners are tied are put up during the trials, which are held on site).

Draconian controls on internal travel and on travel to China have been breaking down, he said, and hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have traveled to and from Korean-speaking areas of China, exposing them to a thriving market economy and more South Korean television broadcasts.

"They are gradually learning about South Korean prosperity," Dr. Lankov said. "This is a death sentence to the regime. North Korea's claim to legitimacy is based on its ability to deliver the worker's paradise now. What if everyone sees that it is not delivering?"
This bears watching.

And a big thanks to Tom the Pooklekufr for the link.

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