Public lectures inspire interest in free flow of information among North Koreans

Kim Chae Hwan  |  2016-09-01 10:58
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The North Korean authorities have been conducting continuous rounds of public lectures in an effort to stymie growing interest in life beyond the countrys borders. Rather than achieving the intended effect, however, these lectures are inadvertently drawing attention to fresh channels through which information on the the outside world can be procured.

Were continually receiving lectures on how the corrupt reactionary capitalist ideologies are plaguing our daily lives, a source from Ryanggang Province told Daily NK in a telephone conversation. 

However, these messages are instead piquing peoples interest, he said, noting, When people are told what to do in the lectures these days, it inspires them to do the opposite. 

This tendency is naturally stronger among those who have had more exposure to foreign video content and books. From the turn of the century, more North Koreans have managed to gain access to illegal South Korean TV dramas thanks to advances in compact media storage. This has fueled a massive interest in banned media content from the South while gradually shifting public perception about North Korean society and the world outside the countrys borders. 

Kim Jong Ils attempts to quash this burgeoning movement through various surveillance mechanisms not only failed, it provided abundant opportunities for monitoring agents to pocket bribes in return for turning a blind eye. 

After his accession to power, Kim Jong Un upped the ante by stepping up surveillance and punishment for illicit media consumption in tandem with a stronger emphasis on the fight against imperialist culture and ideologies.

Since last year, the state has been pressuring people to sign documents vowing never to watch South Korean and foreign video content, the source explained.

State public lectures criticizing foreign radio broadcasts are also said to have unintentionally contributed to their popularity. Last spring, the authorities talked about KBS, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Free Chosun, among others, while claiming that anti-Republic plots are being promoted through these channels. Thats how I learned of the existence of these broadcasters, a different source from North Hamgyong Province said. 

Also, more people have become interested in buying radios because theyre curious about how outside forces seek to obliterate us [as the state narrative claims], the source explained. 

Interest has also been rising for foreign books banned by the state. Recently, an increasing number of young people are using USBs and SD cards, as they can download collections of over 300 books directly onto their mobile phones. Memoirs of business tycoons from the South, including Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju Yung and Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee, are especially popular, reported the source. 

As the flow of information into North Korea gains momentum and diversifies, a growing portion of its citizenry are perceiving the state-sanctioned blockade on information from outside its borders as an admission of the regimes weaknesses, and find it difficult to believe [our] hardships are caused by American imperialists and South Korean puppets trying to crush the Republic,' the source concluded. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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