Recently, there are growing concerns and criticisms about North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile provocations. International pressure against the country's nuclear development has been expanded to address human rights issues in the country. Now, efforts are made to bring about fundamental changes within the country by helping North Koreans get better access to outside information, and such efforts have been intensified in recent months. The United States government, in particular, has tightened the reins on North Korea by expanding its support for getting information to North Korea.
The Obama administration submitted a report to the Congress on its plans to get information to North Korea, two days after North Korea's ballistic missile launches on September 5. It is said that the report contains "a detailed plan for making unrestricted, unmonitored and inexpensive electronic mass communications available to the people of North Korea" as stated in Section 301 of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act. And, reports say that the U.S. State Department has plans to spend $2.65 million (approx. 3 billion) to support North Koreans' access to outside information in three categories. Specifically, according to reports, $1.6 million is allocated to projects focused on increasing the flow of information into, out of and within North Korea; $500,000 to projects that promote human rights and identify human rights abuses and those who are responsible; and, $550,000 to technology development programs that encourage political openness in North Korea.
The State Department has also called for proposals that would enable effective delivery of outside information to the North Korean population. These measures suggest that the U.S. government intends to tighten its squeeze on the rogue state on three fronts: comprehensive economic sanctions, pressure over human rights abuses, and expansion of the flow of information into the country.
In fact, North Koreans face a dearth of information as if they were in the 1700s. Although they are reportedly getting more outside information than before, the amount of information they get just does not compare to that in other countries. For Anti-North Korea leaflets that have been sent to deliver information to the North, some people, even those in South Korea, have expressed doubts about the effectiveness. Simple leaflets, however, can be an effective tool to provide information for North Korean residents who are deprived of chances to access outside information. When I was in North Korea, I was curious about the outside world, especially South Korea. At that time, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea, reported that the wage of South Korean workers was as little as 100,000 (approx. $100) per month. I wanted to know how much 100,000 was worth, but I couldn't because information on the won-dollar exchange rate was unavailable to the public.
The people in North Korea do not have the freedom to enjoy outside information. They should avoid the censorship and monitoring by the state. If they are caught accessing outside information, they are sent to prisons or even to political prison camps. The authorities even block information from China and Russia, the closest allies of the state. Reports say that about 180,000-200,000 North Koreans visit China every year, which only account for less than 1% of the population. They are allowed to access extremely limited information during their visit because they are under heavy surveillance by the authorities.
The North Korean regime maintains tight control of information to make the citizens remain unaware of the fact that they have been led to believe false propaganda. The regime has fabricated history to instill in the minds of the people the greatness of their leader, and it has even spread absurd false propaganda that the North Korean leader is admired by people around the world. On its September 9 issue, Rodong Sinmun published an article titled 'For a Garden of True Love for the People', which read "The South Korean people and media cannot help feeling admiration for Kim Jong-Un's policy of love for his people". There is no way for most North Koreans to even think that those words are nothing more than lies. Deceived by such propaganda, they offer blind loyalty to their leader, and blind loyalty plays a critical role in helping the regime maintain its dictatorship.
North Koreans, who have been brainwashed by their regime, need to be provided with at least minimal amount of outside information, so they can see for themselves opportunities to live the lives they want to lead. Recently, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test despite the strongest-ever international sanctions against the country, which have made some skeptical about the effectiveness of pressure on North Korea. It would be, therefore, meaningful to seek changes within the country while at the same time enhancing pressure through more effective measures. North Koreans' access to outside information would be a serious blow to Kim Jong-Un's regime, as it would help raise their awareness about democracy.
As history tells us, any power that is maintained through dictatorship, violence, deception and hypocrisy will never defeat the truth. Dropping an "information bomb" on the country is necessary to tell the people there the truth. This would help secure democracy and human rights in the country and fight against the regime's nuclear tests. Now is the time that the international community should pay utmost attention to the free flow of information in North Korea.