NGOs in Action: The North Korea Strategy Center
We are always interested in NGOs doing innovative work on North Korea, and we have again been reminded of the North Korea Strategy Center. The organization’s executive director is Kang Cheol Hwan, author of one of the few truly indispensible books on North Korea: the 2001 Aquariums of Pyongyang. The defector-led organization does a number of things, including working with and seeking to empower defectors and providing information on North Korea.
However, one of the more interesting features of their work is to distribute information into North Korea through USB’s. According to their website, in 2013 the organization “sent over 2,000 USBs, 10,000 DVDs, and 200 radios into North Korea with foreign movies, documentaries, and offline versions of Wikipedia informing the North Koreans of the outside world through subtle forms of entertainment.” Currently, the organization is running an online campaign to send 500 USBs with foreign content to North Korea by the end of this year.
In our most recent post on the Sony hack, Marcus Noland and I argued that the event should be taken very seriously; as David Rothkopf argues in a thoughtful piece for Foreign Policy, the destructive attack was not (as President Obama suggested) “cybervandalism.”
We suggested that an appropriate—indeed, deeply appropriate--proportional response to the North Korean and Guardian of the Peace threats would be to step up efforts to penetrate the country’s information defenses. This immediately sparked a round of exchanges about what to send: the South Korean literary canon, books on the Korean war, Locke and Rousseau, the Bible, and encyclopedias all made our list. But entertainment—movies, TV shows and music—may be the best way into North Korean hearts and minds. Sending copies of The Interview may be a bit much, but .
NGOs in Action Posts
NGO in Action posts are designed to draw attention to the variety of organizations working on and in North Korea; they are informational and do not constitute an endorsement of the organizations. We welcome suggestions in the comment section on organizations we have not covered.