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How Technology Gets the News Out of North Korea 173

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the information-finds-a-way dept.
itwbennett writes "Kim Dong-cheol is a North Korean with 'a double life,' writes the IDG News Service's Martyn Williams in a story on ITworld. 'In addition to his job as a driver for a company, Kim also works as a clandestine reporter for AsiaPress, a Japanese news agency that's taken advantage of the digital electronics revolution to get reports from inside North Korea,' says Williams. 'When we started training journalists in 2003 or 2004, getting cameras into North Korea was a real problem,' said Jiro Ishimaru, chief editor of the news agency, at a Tokyo news conference on Monday. 'Nowadays, within North Korea you are able to have your pick of Sony, Panasonic or Samsung cameras.' The images they're capturing are 'often startling,' and it 'documents a side of the country the government doesn't want the world to see,' says Williams."
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How Technology Gets the News Out of North Korea

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  • Samsung? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) <afacini@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:57PM (#34091166)
    Noticed they mentioned Samsung... I wonder why N. Korea is allowing S. Korean brands to be sold. Any ideas?
    • Re:Samsung? (Score:5, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday November 01, 2010 @12:59PM (#34091212) Homepage Journal

      As opposed to Japanese brands?
      I suggest you read some history of Korea.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah good point. And yeah, black market is my guess. Still though, probably pretty risky for someone to go around taking pictures with one of these cameras.
        • by Y-Crate (540566)

          I'm not trying to be an ass, but you need to re-read the entire article. You completely missed the whole point.

      • Re:Samsung? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jojoba_oil (1071932) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:04PM (#34092158)

        I'm hesitant to post this; but here goes...

        Despite the history of Korea being kicked around by the rest of Asia, there are many unofficial ties between DPRKorea and Japan. Whole communities of rich Juche supporters live in Japan. Even the official news outlet (Korea Central News Agency [kcna.co.jp]) runs under a jp domain...

        As for my hesitancy: Outside of the obtuse one-liners, the standard Western person (and most news media) seems to be completely uninterested in that region, yet still feels that they should analyze and report on the situation.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

          Despite the history of Korea being kicked around by the rest of Asia, there are many unofficial ties between DPRKorea and Japan. Whole communities of rich Juche supporters live in Japan. Even the official news outlet (Korea Central News Agency) runs under a jp domain...

          There is a really great japanese movie called "Go" [wikimedia.org] about a teenage zainichi growing up in the north korean ex-pat community in Japan. Really a top-notch coming of age story and I thought it was pretty accessible to western sensibilities too, although there was a sense of being "dropped" into the middle of the culture with little explanation of many of the basics that any japanese person would probably just automatically be familiar with.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          True DPRK always seems to be willing to work in it's own self interest. That was kind of my point. If they don't have a problem with Sony they sure as shooting will not have an issue with Samsung.

    • They probably aren't. My guess would be it's black market.

    • Re:Samsung? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:11PM (#34091388)

      How about because they have had joint economic development for years at a special economic zone, perhaps?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaesong_Industrial_Region [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrEricSir (398214)

      If it's sold legally, they probably cover up the word Samsung and replace it with a fake North Korean brand name.

      They've done the same thing before, for example their trolley system was allegedly "built in North Korea" despite the fact that it was several decades old and covered in German graffiti.

      • Re:Samsung? (Score:5, Funny)

        by God'sDuck (837829) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:52PM (#34092788)

        ...for example their trolley system was allegedly "built in North Korea" despite the fact that it was several decades old and covered in German graffiti.

        By "German graffiti" I assume you mean, "German praises to Our Dear Leader by the Western pig-dogs who were so amazed when they visited the best trolley factory in the world that they were moved to paint their awe upon the trolley cars as a never-ending testimony."

        • By "German graffiti" I assume you mean, "German praises to Our Dear Leader by the Western pig-dogs who were so amazed when they visited the best trolley factory in the world that they were moved to paint their awe upon the trolley cars as a never-ending testimony."

          "Der liebe Führer hat Geschlecht mit kranken Barnyardtieren."

      • They've done the same thing before, for example their trolley system was allegedly "built in North Korea" despite the fact that it was several decades old and covered in German graffiti.

        [Shrug]Most of the graffiti I saw on and around the trains in Italy were in English. Probably more L33t to spray in a foreign language. Either that or a bunch of Man U supporters had been by.

    • I'm guessing the whole non existent infrastructure thing is the reason they import from S. Korea (that and they do make some good stuff).
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:01PM (#34091240) Homepage Journal

    Really do we need to know how this is done? I am hoping this is a red heiring and that they are using other methods to get the SD cards out.

  • by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:07PM (#34091324) Homepage

    The interesting part is that they use Chinese cellphone networks, which leak into North Korea at the border, to get the videos out. (The Burmese opposition also does that, connecting to Bengladeshi networks.)

    I wonder why China lets that happen, as it would be trivial for them to ban any data coverage in this area and/or report any suspicious activity to the North Korean authorities. Maybe it's a way for them to put some pressure on their North Korean "ally", which has become somewhat of an embarrasment to them lately.

    If cell phone coverage goes down, they could still use carrier pigeons to send Flash drives to China or South Korea...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556) *

      I wonder why China lets that happen, as it would be trivial for them to ban any data coverage in this area and/or report any suspicious activity to the North Korean authorities. Maybe it's a way for them to put some pressure on their North Korean "ally", which has become somewhat of an embarrasment to them lately.

      Maybe they use it as a cheap and easy way to get their own information out of the country?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      My guess is that its because China feels morally responsible for the welfare of North Korea. Quite honestly, without Chinese aid and trade, the people of North Korea would starve to death.
      • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:24PM (#34091560)
        I doubt that "morals" enter into it when you're talking about the Chinese government. More than likely, North Korea is a GIANT liability, and they are more or less passively pushing to draw North Korea into the real world slowly so that they don't have to waste resources keeping it afloat. The Chinese won't actively promote revolution or anything there, but they won't suppress anything against Kim Jong "license to" Il or his government there, either.
      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:29PM (#34091640) Homepage Journal
        The last thing China wants is to have the North Korean government collapse and create a refugee situation where hundreds of thousands of uneducated, dirt poor, and starving people come streaming across the border. I doubt the Chinese government like the North Korean government any more than the rest of the world, but at least with the government functioning they're keeping their problems to themselves for the most part.
        • create a refugee situation where hundreds of thousands of uneducated, dirt poor, and starving people come streaming across the border.

          Would they notice the difference?

          • by oatworm (969674) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:42PM (#34093582) Homepage
            To put this into American terms, consider the situation in Mexico, how that affects immigration patterns, and how the border states are "appreciating" that. Now, consider what the situation in the border states would be like if most of Mexico was starving and the Mexican government collapsed completely. Now, imagine if your per-capita GDP was about a third of what it is currently, with most people over the age of 40 having "fond memories" of that "glorious" time when your entire country went off an economic cliff and attempted to be an authoritarian agricultural society.

            And that's the China-North Korea situation in a nutshell. I'm on a horse.
          • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:46PM (#34093624) Homepage Journal
            Scarily enough, a lot of North Koreans are poor by rural Chinese dirt farmer standards.
        • The last thing China wants is to have the North Korean government collapse and create a refugee situation where hundreds of thousands of uneducated, dirt poor, and starving people come streaming across the border.

          They've already got that. The last thing they want is for NK to collapse, be taken over by or reunify with SK, and lose their buffer state between them and US troops.

      • A sense of moral responsibility would be pretty far down on the list of why the Chinese government does anything.

    • North Korea is very opaque, even for China and Russia. China can only go so far in assessing the state of North Korea through its official channels (even if they attach intel officers to their diplomatic mission). It's not like Chinese agents can mingle with the rest of society in North Korea like they could, if posing as "immigrant workers" or "tourists" in South Korea or Japan. This helps them get additional, cheap information.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Terminaldogma (765487)
      Most likely because China could care less. Contrary to the image China projects about being best friends with North Korea, they are pretty much as sick as NK as the rest of the world. China has lost billions in investments to NK, and if you've ever lent $20 to someone and never had it paid back, you can begin to imagine how they feel. That being said, China does actively enforce the border, but there is a myriad of different political reasons for this. The "legal" reason is that they have pacts with North
    • by denobug (753200) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:44PM (#34091850)

      If cell phone coverage goes down, they could still use carrier pigeons to send Flash drives to China or South Korea...

      Well sir we are talking about a impoverished nation here. Are you sure the pigeons would survived without being hunt down and eaten before it crossed the border?

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:31PM (#34092534)

        Well sir we are talking about a impoverished nation here. Are you sure the pigeons would survived without being hunt down and eaten before it crossed the border?

        Moderated as funny, but it is serious. I knew a girl who immigrated from a dirt-poor town in the chinese boondocks. She told me that in her town there were no pets, because they had all been eaten for food. North Korea seems to be even more impoverished than that.

    • by Darthmalt (775250)
      Probably so the chinese spies operating in NK have a way to report home.
    • How do you STOP a radio signal? These are ordinary chinese towers to which ordinary chinese telephones connect. That they come from the south instead of the north would not be impossible to block but not a standard on how cellphones work. And why would China?

      North Korea isn't just a buffer for them between and the US but also a very nice "You think you got it bad Hong Kong? It can be worse." Any Chinese person who wonders if the Chinese communist regime is repressive only has to look south. It is kinda lik

      • How do you STOP a radio signal?

        Triangulate on its source and nuke it from orbit, of course.

        Which, incidentally, is pretty much what the North Korean government is doing when they detect radio signals being broadcast, according to the article... well, except the bit about nuking it from orbit. I have no idea why China would want to help them pin down the unauthorized broadcasts, though.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        It is kinda like Jews in England, a very anti-semitic nation

        Please explain, as I've never heard anyone say anything like that before.

    • If cell phone coverage goes down, they could still use carrier pigeons to send Flash drives to China or South Korea...

      There is the small problem of getting Chinese or South Korean carrier pigeons _into_ North Korea, first.

      And the not-so-small problem keeping them un-eaten long enough to fly home with the data.

  • That's what I learned from this article.
    • by santax (1541065) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:45PM (#34091866)
      Yeah but there is no oil there, so who gives a fuck.
    • If you knew anything about North Korea, you already knew that. The article is actually about the methods, technology, and people that are working to show the world what the real conditions are like inside North Korea. There are a shocking number of people in the world that believe NK's official statements and state guided tours of carefully chosen locations. They see pictures of a somewhat backward but otherwise prosperous city, but only because the city in it's entirety has been build, maintained and ev

  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:53PM (#34091992)
    Before the Iraq war, I was in South Korea. As a soldier, I obviously couldn't actually enter NK, but I have been on the DMZ. The first thing I noticed about NK is that there are no trees. South Korea has forests, but NK appears to be clear cut as far as the eye can see. The NK Guards have soviet-style costumes. If NK weren't so dangerous, the DMZ could pass for a set in a Steven Spielberg film. But the three things NK seems to have in abundance (at least as seen from the DMZ) are oversized flags, martialistic music and Guard Towers. From the DMZ, North Korea looks like the biggest prison in the world. I am glad someone is sneaking cameras into the country and recruiting journalists, because the world seems to be willfully ignorant about how bad the situation is in NK. Hopefully NK will eventually peacefully implode, like East Germany, but the Kim family and his Cronies are enriching themselves at the expense of the Korean People, so they probably won't go without a fight. Maybe we'll get lucky and the North Koreans will deal with the Kim family the same way the Romanians took care of the Ceauescu family.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @02:03PM (#34092146)

      As a Romanian, I can tell you that it wasn't the Romanians who took care of them, although that was the general feeling in the West.

      The "good guy" in that particular situation was the KGB.

      • by KingAlanI (1270538) on Monday November 01, 2010 @03:06PM (#34092974) Homepage Journal

        When a KGB agent is the good guy, you know the rest of the situation is f*cked up...

        • When one bad guy is killing other bad guys, it doesn’t necessarily make him a good guy. It does, however, sometimes work out best to just stand back and wait to see who’s left when the dust settles.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Algan (20532)

        As a Romanian, I can tell you that I couldn't care less who was behind it, the guy got what he deserved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2010 @01:54PM (#34092006)

    http://www.vbs.tv/watch/the-vice-guide-to-travel/vice-guide-to-north-korea-1-of-3

    When I saw this, it changed my perception (in a bad way) of just how messed up north korea is.

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