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North Korean Defectors Use USBs To Spread Information

The information age heralded by our technology is proving more than capable of eroding the media blockade of regimes such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Over 250 defectors have studied at a journalist academy founded by one of their own in 2011 and they have gone on to further undermine North Korean efforts to keep its population in the dark. These subversions include going on to work for radio stations broadcasting into North Korea, writing about their homeland for media in South Korea or surrounding nations, and just recently, a defector by the name of Daniel Jeong has begun a project to smuggle 6,000 USB drives loaded with news and other media into the isolated state.

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As North Korea faces new international sanctions in response to its nuclear tests and long-range rocket launch this year, its leadership is also attempting to suppress the destabilizing information about life beyond its borders. Highlighting its concerns, the regime announced earlier in April it was blocking social media and news websites including Facebook and CNN. While only a tiny number of privileged North Koreans have access to the web, this ban represents an attempt to plug another of the endless entry points for outside information.

The North Korean Strategy Center, which operates the journalism academy in Seoul, says it has sent 4,000 USBs into North Korea filled with news, literature, and even episodes of popular South Korean soap operas depicting a far wealthier society than many North Korean citizens could imagine. Students who write the content which ends up on this media start with basic skills such as writing objectively, which can be difficult for those used to the propaganda style of the North Korean state. Every year however, students and instructors see the results of their efforts as new defectors come forth. Their goal is to one day go back and bring the freedom of the press to North Korea.

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