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NKSC Media Dissemination Seminar

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On April 24, 2014, NKSC carried out an open seminar named “Strategies to Counter North Korea’s Control Over External Information”  at the Fruit of Love Theater in Seoul. Go Kyung Min (Jeju University), Kim Heung Kwang (North Korea Intellectual Solidarity), Joo Sung Ha (Dong A Ilbo), Doh Myung Hak (North Korea PEN Center) and a defector witness participated as panels. NGO representative and members of the Daily NK, NKnet and North Korean Intellectuals’ Solidarity (NKIS) also attended the seminar.

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Go Kyung Min provided a lecture about the “Inflow of External Information and North Korea’s Information Control Strategies”. Professor Go gave an outline of the current external information inflow environment in North Korea. He then moved on to talk about North Korea’s internet and mobile communication services. Professor Go also talked about how countries such as China, Vietnam and Cuba are constantly confronted in a dilemma between maintaining status quo and economic development. While they regulate the usage of the Internet to maintain political control, Go mentioned socialist states also need to utilize the Internet to initiate economic development.

This is what he called “Dual Strategy”. North Korea, according to Professor Go, will also implement this dual policy. However, in order to restrict the flow of outside information, North Korea limits the Internet to just members of its elite society. To counter these restrictions, it is necessary to utilize advanced technology, mobile phones, radios and TV to increase the inflow of external information. NKIS’s Director Kim Heung Kwang’s second lecture “North Korea’s Information Surveillance and Current Information Inflow Situation”. Director Kim used his personal experience in North Korea to give an analysis of the regime’s system of information restriction and how foreign books, computers, electronics are monitored in North Korea. He also described the current status of electronic hardware supplies entering North Korea and how surveillance is avoided. He ended by stating external information is North Korea’s “Achilles heel” that will be a major force to speed up the breakdown of the current North Korean regime.

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After the two lectures, a debate session was held. Dong-a Ilbo’s Ju Sung Ha, the International Pen Center’s Director Do Myung Hak, and a witness from a victim of North Korea’s information restriction all shared their thoughts on the matter. Reporter Joo Sung Ha described the inflow of external information and the North Korean government’s efforts to prevent this as a battle between “shield and spear”. Director Do Myung Hak argued that the kind of content being sent into North Korea should not consist of minor information like the radio broadcasts into North Korea that has been going on since 2001. He asked that this content must be carefully selected, and focus on that information which will enlighten the North Koreans on human rights and democratic values.

The presenter also emphasized the importance of information dissemination. He mentioned the execution of North Koreans who were caught with external information under Kim Jung Un’s orders. While this demonstrates the rise in severity of punishment in North Korea, the executions are clearly a way of instilling fear to a wider audience. What is interesting is that those who are given the task of preventing external information are also consumers of the media. As they are more regularly exposed to external information, their mindsets are also likely to change over time. Sending external information into North Korea was described as “hitting North Korea’s pressure points,” and, therefore, is the most effective way to bring change into North Korea.