NGOs in Action: The North Korea Strategy Center

January 2, 2015 12:15 AM

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.

The American Friends Service Committee

Wheat Mission Ministries

Global Resource Services

Community of Sant'Egidio

Welthungerhilfe (Agro Action)

National Endowment for Democracy: North Korea Funding

European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea

First Steps

Rights in Exile Program

Comments

Roland

Beyond topic:
Marcus and Stephan, please recognize the revolutionary sentence in the New Year speech of Kim Yong Un:
"... all the economic organs and enterprises can conduct their business activities creatively on their own initiative."
That maybe means a breakthrough in market economics.
Exciting !

Billy

I would like to question the merits of the current NKSC campaign you have devoted space here to promote. The campaign claims it needs $20 per USB for them to be sent into the country. This claim does not appear to be backed with sufficient evidence. It would have been prudent to independently verify such claims before promoting a campaign of this kind.

shaggard

Billy: Thanks for your comment and your critical questions, which are welcome. But to be clear: many groups are working on North Korea, and we seek to provide basic information and links on them, not an assessment of their organizations or success. As we say explicitly: 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. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

Dan Bielefeld

Billy, you've lobbed an allegation without providing any reasoning to back it up. You say they don't provide "sufficient evidence" that the campaign "needs $20 per USB." Are you saying it costs less than $20 to buy a USB memory stick? Of course that is true, but it would be unreasonable to not also budget in very real costs for labor, equipment, office space, distribution, etc. And indeed, at the campaign link they provide a basic breakdown of the costs of each USB: $5 for materials, $8 for production, and $7 for delivery. Dare I suspect that no evidence would be sufficient for you.

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