Are Cell Phones and DVD’s Opening up North Korea?
(New York) There is increasing evidence of electronic media trickling into tightly locked North Korea. South Korean dramas are a hit in the North Korean black markets; Chinese-made cell phones increasingly are common in North Korea’s border lands. North Korean officials today are more likely to accept bribes to allow contraband gadgets to flow across their borders. Foreign intelligence studies indicate a strong link between foreign media exposure of North Koreans and their positive perceptions of the outside world, implying that the influx of foreign media contributes to a more aware North Korean citizenry.
However, questions worth asking include the following: What information is getting into North Korea? Who has access to it -- only the elites? How is the new information trickling in? What role do cellphones play? Is increased trade with foreigners impacting how North Koreans receive information? Will the increase in informational flow have an impact in the general North Korean psyche? Could North Korean elites be on the verge of a paradigm shift regarding ideas and institutions originating in the West?
These questions and more will be discussed by a panel of subject experts on information technology flowing into North Korea at a briefing Oct. 18, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the Learning Center, 4 W. 43rd St., New York, N.Y. The discussions are on the record and media are welcome to attend. The event is co-sponsored by Han Concert, which seeks to inform about under-reported issues related to North Korea, and by the Unification Theological Seminary, which offers courses on conflict resolution at the 43rd Street venue.The moderator for the panel will be Ms. Celeste Headlee, a veteran broadcast journalist and former Midwest Correspondent for NPR’s Day to Day.
Speakers include L. Gordon Flake, executive director of the Mansfield Foundation; Nathaniel Kretchun, an executive at InterMedia, which manages quantitative and qualitative research projects in North Korea. Lucas Dixon, an engineering executive at Google Ideas, and who studies illicit networks in North Korea.
The panelists are expected to report that the North Korean regime’s monopoly on information flow is over and that sharing of illegal foreign content is a key factor in strengthening horizontal bonds between North Korean citizens.