Surveying North Koreans to find out what they think

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What do North Koreans think? It’s an impossible question to answer, given that North Korea is a totalitarian state where professing anything other than wholehearted adulation for the Kim regime could land a person in a political prison camp — or worse.

For years, researchers in Seoul have been trying to collect data on North Korean thought by conducting surveys of defectors from North Korea who have escaped from the police state and made it to safety in South Korea.

Now, a new project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, is trying to poll North Koreans who live in North Korea.

“This gives us a window into what the average North Korean citizen is thinking,” said Victor D. Cha, chair of Korea studies at CSIS, who runs the “Beyond Parallel” project dedicated to Korean unification. “This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country.”

The project contracted a nongovernmental agency that works inside North Korea — Cha would not reveal its name to protect the safety of its operations — to carry out surveys. The NGO surveyed 20 men and 16 women between the ages of 28 and 80. They came from a variety of backgrounds, with jobs including doctor, laborer, homemaker, factory worker and company president, and they lived across the country. The survey was not done through cold calls — the survey administrators knew those they were questioning in some way.

“This isn’t Gallup-level surveying,” Cha said. “It’s only 36 people, but it’s 36 people more than anyone else has surveyed in North Korea. The findings are modest, but they’re pretty insightful.”

[Washington Post]

This entry was posted in by Grant Montgomery.

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