Podcast: North Korea’s Information Underground

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
x
Episode Guests
  • Elizabeth C. Economy
    Senior Fellow for China Studies

Show Notes

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Jieun Baek, author of North Korea’s Hidden Revolution: How the Information Underground is Transforming a Closed Society, tells the story of the outlawed political and social information that is penetrating North Korea’s hermetic borders. Through dozens of interviews with North Korean defectors, Baek finds that everyday North Koreans crave news and entertainment from the outside world—from romantic television dramas to basic weather reports. Most of all, the foreign knowledge they seek helps to dismantle the façade of total information control the North Korean government has tried to erect around its citizens. Brokers smuggle DVDs, USB sticks, and SD cards with illicit media into the country, and citizens use black-market radios to pick up forbidden stations from South Korea, the United Kingdom, and beyond. The North Korean government fights back in a deadly game of cat and mouse, dealing out fines, detentions, and even public executions to individuals it catches consuming or exchanging contraband content. At the same time, defectors say that information from the outside world is one of the best tools available to help citizens resist the country’s oppressive regime. Listen below to hear Baek’s account of North Korea’s information underground, and about her own efforts to send fragments of the outside world into the hermit kingdom.

China

First came Mao, then came Deng, now Chinese President Xi Jinping has ushered in the Third Revolution, introducing sweeping reforms throughout the government, economy, and society. Unlike past leaders…

China

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s era of opening up and reform has drawn to an end, and a new era—one marked by the consolidation of power under Xi himself—has dawned. In his new book, End of an Er…

China

With over 5,000 years of history, modern China must be understood through the lens of its past. In his recent book, Bully of Asia: Why China's Dream is the New Threat to World Order, Steven Mosher ar…

Top Stories on CFR

Israel

Israel has made eliminating the threat from the Gaza-based militant group a central war aim, but it’s not entirely clear at what point that condition will be met.  

Russia

Outright seizure of the Russian Central Bank’s hundreds of billions in frozen assets is currently off the table, but it is still possible to obtain large sums for Ukraine from the interest income on these assets.