I wrote an article a while back on the impact of South Korean media in North Korea and how big its role has become. Well, to say the least, the amount of access North Koreans have to foreign news and media content is the highest it’s ever been. And, more importantly, it’s making a difference.
A recent study conducted by InterMedia and commissioned by the U.S. State Department on the impacts of foreign media within North Korea says that although North Korea still remains as the world’s most reclusive country, “ the [North Korean] government’s ability to control the flow information is receding.”
The government still has laws against accessing foreign media but much of it relies on citizens reporting on each other. However, with less people willing to turn their neighbors in, the government is losing its power. A Korean would even say that the North Korean government has become like a tiger with a loud roar but very little teeth to do any damage. Of course, North Koreans are still smart about their actions and are still wary of government inspection teams but the thing that has changed the most is that people are more open to sharing their movies and dramas with each other instead hiding it in fear.
This goes to show that North Korea is undergoing a change in its attitude to the outside world. Although the study said that these “changing perceptions are unlikely to translate into significant pressure on the North Korean government in the short term, North Koreans with exposure to outside news or entertainment media are more likely to be favorably disposed toward South Korea and the United States — the North’s traditional enemies.” How much they would be able to express or act on these newfound attitudes would still be extremely limited. Even still, “in these most nascent seeds of civil society lies the potential for continued change on the ground level in the lives of ordinary North Koreans,” the authors said.
As an American with granted liberties, I go on the internet whenever I want to access information from all over the world. With just a click of my mouse, I am able to watch movies, catch up with a friend living in Australia, look at the paintings on display at the Louvre, and so much more. Whether we realize it or not, the free flow of information is crucial to the development of humanity. And right now, North Korea may have taken one step closer to that.
If North Korea continues to have access to foreign media, we can further hope for a smoother unification process in the future. Of course, we may not be able to hope that these small changes will lead to a major change, such as perhaps the fall of the regime. But I believe that change in the average North Korean person’s mindset is an extremely important starting point. Also, as long as we continue to hear good news such as that of this article, there is all the more reason for us to hope that unification is not far.
Full InterMedia research can be found here.