New Developments Open a Closed Society

[imText1]“The spread of mobile phones in North Korea cannot be stopped. In the case of civilian unrest like in the Middle East, there is a high chance that these would be broadcast to the outside world,” Jiro Ishimaru, a representative of Asia Press, asserted at a seminar on the latest developments in North Korea held in Tokyo yesterday.

Asia Press organized the seminar, ‘Kim Jong Il’s Faltering System, and Changes in North Korea Seen through Recent Footage,’ centering it on video made by Kim Dong Chul, an Asia Press reporter who works inside North Korea.

Among the notable points, Ishimaru pointed out that the number of kotjebi, beggar children, has grown since the currency reform, explaining, “After 2000, when the people made their own market, the food situation was not bad; however, after the currency reform and once the regime had taken all the money that people had saved up, economic activity decreased.

Elsewhere, he showed how North Korean people have created new forms of ‘grassroots capitalism’ in the face of economic hardship, noting, “There is an increasing level of private operation of coal mines located around Suncheon and Pyongyang.”

“From two or three years ago,” he explained, “those who had money began to apply to operate them from state mining enterprises, which had already given up doing so, and then they ran them after disguising them as if they were being run by the military or police. Mines run in this way, called the ‘jato way’ (meaning mining privately) produce more than other state-run mines,” he said.

Other footage that Ishimaru used showed North Korean citizens expressing strong complaints against the successor, Kim Jong Eun. In the footage, one citizen describes him as a novice.

Lee Jin Su, a reporter for Asia Press, also introduced a short video footage recorded on a mobile phone, asserting that the closed society of North Korea can also be opened this way.

Ishimaru agreed, stating, “In the future, the spread of mobile phones that can record video or still images will not be held back.”