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North Korea Hackathon kicks off in San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO – A North Korea ‘hackathon’ begun in San Francisco early Saturday, with defectors and human rights activists from South Korea kicking off the two-day event with presentations about the DPRK information environment.

Defector and democracy activist Park Sang Hak, who conducts balloon drops across the DMZ, was joined by technology smuggler Choi Song Il and Park Yeon Mi, a young female defector known for her regular appearances on South Korean television.

“Our work is to try and break through the North Korea iron curtain. With your help we’ll be able to achieve this,” North Korea Strategy Center speaker Choi said, whose organization sends mini-radios and USB dongles across the Sino-DPRK border.

The defectors and activists focused on briefing the audience of about 50 people on the unique nature of the North Korea information environment, detailing internet limitations and the challenges of physically distributing hardware such as USB sticks or radios throughout the country.

The audience, which organizers the Human Rights Foundation describe as a mixture of “Bay Area technologists, investors, engineers, designers,” presented preliminary ideas before breaking into groups to start the hackathon.

Ideas touted by participants included the development of mesh networks, the retrofitting of radio sets with P2P communications technology, and the creation of a secure, untraceable “Snapchat” style messaging system for use in North Korea.

The aim of the hackathon, the event literature says, is to “spark better ideas for getting information into the world’s most closed and isolated society”.

The hackathon is part of the Human Rights Foundation’s ‘Disrupt North Korea’ project, which looks for ”ways to support technologies and initiatives that at disrupting the North Korean regime’s informations monopoly.”

Activists have to date struggled with developing mass communication techniques to directly share news and information with North Korean citizens.

Balloon launches, USB keys, DVDs and radio broadcasts form the main vectors for activists interested in sending information into the country that may undermine the leadership.

Picture: NK News- 

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