Home > Our Work > Raising Awareness > Speaker Series #2: Week 4 Re-cap ‘Propaganda and information control in North Korea: the 90s until now’

Speaker Series #2: Week 4 Re-cap ‘Propaganda and information control in North Korea: the 90s until now’ with Tatiana Gabroussenko
November 19th 2014

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Dr. Tatiana Gabroussenko delivered the penultimate talk of NKSC’s Speaker Series on November 19th in Seoul, discussing the uses and forms of propaganda in North Korea. As a scholar with a depth of experience on the subject, Dr. Gabroussenko was able to deliver fresh insights on the domestic perception of North Korean propaganda and the widely held foreign misconceptions of North Korean propaganda.

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“Propaganda” as a term and a method of information dissemination holds a near uniformly negative connotation in the West, however, this does not hold true in North Korea. Propaganda and censorship are held as normal in North Korea. So much so, that if one were to confront a North Korean with the censorship and propaganda that exists in the country, the reaction might well be a mere shrug and “so what?” Despite this, the near total control that the government exercises over North Korea’s informational space should not be dismissed lightly. Reporters Without Borders ranked the country as 178th out of 179th on their 2014 press freedom index. The Party and State monopolize all official channels of information in the country but they no longer control North Korea’s entire informational space. In the past two decades, the increasing popularity and availability of USB’s and portable DVD players has meant that North Koreans are now able to access foreign media to an extent that would have been unthinkable before the 1990s.

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Though access to foreign media is on the rise, the power and effectiveness of propaganda should not be underestimated. The continuing existence of both the North Korean state and its propaganda machine is a testament to the power of propaganda. There is a mistaken belief that all North Korean propaganda is shrill and obvious-it is not. North Korean propaganda has been so successful because it is dynamic, changing in reaction to the state’s current political needs, and nuanced. It is able to speak to the hearts of North Koreans and often South Koreans as well. North Korean propaganda is intensive and often catchy and sometimes very convincing. However, this does not mean there is no hope for change in the future. For people who were born and raised surrounded by propaganda, things like leaflet campaigns will most likely not succeed in changing hearts and minds. However, Dr. Gabroussenko believes that allowing more foreigners into North Korea and more North Koreans into the outside world could one day lead to change. Allowing North Koreans to see the world with their own eyes; to observe the world in a real, everyday context is subversion to a system that demands top-down control.

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We have one final talk remaining in our Speaker Series #2, next Wednesday 26th November at 7pm. Read the full details here, and RSVP now by emailing your name and affiliation to: nksc.seouloffice@gmail.com!