How North Korea Battles the Information Revolution

A colleague shared the following story. Like any modern totalitarian regime, North Korea realizes that its greatest enemy is the information revolution. The Soviet Union suffered a great blow when video cassettes from abroad started penetrating the country, and people could see what the daily lives of their peers in “rotting capitalist societies” were really like.

Today, North Korea faces the same problem. In order to prevent people from watching tapes and DVDs smuggled from the West, the Secret Police uses the following strategy. A police truck arrives at a neighborhood and cuts the electricity in the entire block of houses. This makes it impossible for the residents to eject cassettes and discs and destroy or hide them before the police officers get to their apartment. Then, the officers only have to walk from one abode to another, collecting the equipment that, more often than not, does contain illegal Western viewing material.

11 thoughts on “How North Korea Battles the Information Revolution”

  1. This surprises me. I would have guessed that they either did not allow VCR/DVD players at all, or else had their own television and radio formats which were not compatible with those of the outside world.


    1. I would expect the same as David – or that there would be no VCR or DVD players for sale. And it is much more difficult to smuggle a player into the countrly, than it is to smuggle a DVD… Just for geometrical reasons…


      1. In every totalitarian regime, there is an elite. Those are the folks who have everything. Itw as the same in our country, so why is everybody so surprised that North Korea is no different?


        1. Do you remember who had VCRs in our Soviet homeland? 🙂 Remember that scene in “Vokzal dlya dvoih” where a woman who sells vegetables has one and buys American tapes on the black market? I have no reason to believe that this class of people does not exist in every Communist country.


      2. What “your own soviet experiences” are you projecting? Have you heard of anyone, elite or not, being searched just because of a suspicion of having a VCR player? Owning something illegal could be used as a pretext, but the real reasons were always political. No mass searches with cutting off elictricity in my lifetime (which means no mass searches in your lifetime as well 🙂 )


        1. No, not the mass searches experience, of course. 🙂 🙂 Just the knowledge of who had access to VCRs and tapes in the USSR.

          By the way, have you seen that documentary about Western television and Estonia? The famous one? Should I watch it or is it bad?


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