Toronto rights group wants to fight North Korea's oppressive regime — with USB keys
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What kind of political damage can a USB key cause? Can it help topple an oppressive regime?
With the permeation of new technologies, a Toronto-based rights group is hoping to counter communist propaganda and bring democratic change to North Korea by downloading “truths” about the West into thumb-sized memory sticks and passing them on to the people in the reclusive country.
As computers and DVDs become more accessible to everyday North Koreans, the campaign organizer hopes Project E — standing for “empower, enlighten, educate, epiphany, eye-open and expose” — will have a bigger impact than the “modified radios” used by advocates in the past.
“The age of information has hit North Korea. Seven-four per cent of people there now have access to TV and 50 per cent have DVD players. More and more people have cell phones. We are seeing a proliferation of technology,” said Christopher Kim of HanVoice, an advocacy group for North Koreans.
“Technology has blown the gate wide open. If this is happening, we need to capitalize on it and the regime has to live with it.”
HanVoice, which just launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the project, will partner with the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Centre that specializes in smuggling information into North Korea.
Kim, whose maternal grandfather fled the communist regime, said Project E is aimed at increasing North Koreans’ awareness about the outside world and promoting a desire for democratic change through USB keys containing a Korean-version of Wikipedia, documentaries and movies.
“Information is the key to change and the more information that reaches North Korea, the more information will spread and lead to change,” he said.
In a country where news and information are heavily censored and secretly watching South Korean soap operas is a crime, the easy-to-hide-and-copy USB sticks can be the most effective tool for change.
Lucia Jang, an exile from North Korea, said she was brainwashed in school by government propaganda against the West, mainly the United States, and how they are the country’s enemies.
She recalled how her cousin was baffled when she saw in a South Korean film called the Wedding Dress the lavish lifestyle and nice food the characters had in Seoul.
“That’s because the North Korean government has taught us from when we’re young that North Korea was the wealthiest country in the world and South Koreans were living in poverty and we should take pity on them,” said Jang, 47, who came to Toronto as a refugee in 2008 and is now a permanent resident.
“It is important to get outside material into North Korea and help debunk the myths the government tells its people as the ‘truth’ and expose the reality. It will help North Koreans realize there is a better world out there and be angry at the conditions they currently live in.”
Kim said Project E has a fundraising target of $6,000, most of it slated for bribing border police and government officials in order to get the USB sticks into the country.
“People outside North Korea have been using the modified radios for many years because the regime deters information-sharing with its people,” said Kim. “Hopefully, the new technology can make objective information accessible to them.”