The Information Age:N. Korean Style  (Page 2 of 3)

So why has the North Korea government, which has traditionally viewed control of information as part of its strategy for regime survival, allowed cell phones and the intranet within the country? North Korea hopes that access to some information technology tools will increase foreign investment in the country, and help build a more efficient economic system. Cell phones and the intranet will allow the state to control production and establish standards between Pyongyang and remote areas of the country.  North Korea also hopes that the limited use of cell phones will encourage investment from overseas, in particular China. The lack of cell phones has been noted as one of the biggest challenges for investors dealing with North Korea.

Socially, the North Korean state believes that it can allow access to these technologies while controlling the social instability that they might invite. Defectors who worked in the IT sector in North Korea have called this the “mosquito net” strategy, meaning it will allow foreign investment in the North while blocking potentially harmful news and culture from the outside world. In short, the North Korea state believes that it can reap the benefits of an information technology network, while controlling it to prevent censured foreign culture from influencing the North Korean population.

It also bears noting that, while cell phones and the domestic intranet could be used to undermine the state, they can also be used to support the state control apparatus. Koryolink users, for example, receive daily texts of North Korean propaganda on their phones. Intranet activity, particularly activity on discussion boards, is closely monitored by the North Korean state security department. Finally, the network can be shut down by the state, if necessary. As Alexandre Mansourov notes, the venture has been blessed by the highest levels of the state security mechanism, which would not happen unless the security apparatus of the regime believes it could control the impact of IT use.

Those expecting that cell phones will lead to a Pyongyang Spring will be disappointed. The songbun caste system in North Korea ensures that those with access to cell phones in North Korea are the most elite 5% of the population. North Koreans of low rank, or those living in the country side, will never see, let alone own, a Koryolink cell phone. They will similarly never access the intranet.

Comments
26
Lg
February 7, 2013 at 20:39

I totally agree with you. They do exist and nothing we can do about it.

Me me me
January 26, 2013 at 00:41

Seems like the people are being given just enough rope to hang themselves. Those forms of communication will no doubt be heavily monitored (pretty much is done so in the west). Makes purging the 'elite' that much easier.

Stephen
November 14, 2012 at 12:17

What, are you gonna personally go over there and remove the regime?
Better yet, do you know what removing the regime is going to entail?
A diatrabe about the evils of a country and how it should be removed is nice and all, but it's not pertinent at the moment. North Korea ain't going much of anywhere any time soon, and fixing that mess is going to be more of a headache than leaving a mangy beast be. It's that simple.

Errol
November 14, 2012 at 04:37

Lean and mean and a lot are underfed. Saw a few AsiaPress articles that showed even NoKor grunts were starving. I know the enlisted personnel always take the brunt of anything, but that was on a whole new level.

Roger
November 13, 2012 at 09:50

Very well researched article showing that is possible to get some understanding of North Korea.  Shines a light on North Korea and a bit of the plight of the folks there as well as some possible venues for GASP talking to them.
Much more helpful than relying on the old "Them Norks is crazy".  But here they are lean and mean.  So we may as well figure out how to deal with the porcupine….

Roger
November 13, 2012 at 09:46

Good point.  However, since ROK recently ended their analog broadcasts only a small portion of North Koreans (those with digital TVs) can now receive the broadcasts.  shame.  So far as I can tell, ROK didn't evn ask or trade anything for giving up the broadcasts. 
 

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