North Korean dissidents seek Silicon Valley’s help

In this age of smartphones and the Internet, it’s hard to believe that the best ways to send pro-democracy messages into North Korea involve dropping paper leaflets from weather balloons and smuggling DVDs and flash drives across the Chinese border.

But two North Koreans who were able to escape from a nation where the Internet is outlawed now hope to hone their methods with the help of Silicon Valley companies and tech professionals.

“The problems they have are a five-finger exercise for a lot of the engineers we meet here,” said Alex Gladstein of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, who helped arrange the visit of the North Korean dissidents. “Each parcel of truth that makes it in is another crack in the totalitarian wall.”

The Northern California trip with dissidents Park Sang Hak, who launches the weather balloons, and Kang Chol-Hwan, who smuggles in the DVDs, comes just days after the United Nations condemned the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong Un. A nearly 400-page report details prison-camp atrocities such as starvation, torture, forced abortions, murder, rape and “other grave sexual violence.”

Change to North Korea must come from within, the dissidents told a crowd.  “The ultimate goal is to make North Koreans enraged about their leadership, make them rise up by themselves and cooperate with each other so they can change internally,” said Park, who won the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent and is president of the Fighters for Free North Korea Association, based in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. “It definitely needs to be from the bottom up.”

[Contra Costa Times]