What makes North Korea feel so oppressive? If you ask its highest-ranking defector in decades, the answer is censorship. Thae Yong Ho, who was until last summer a Pyongyang envoy in London, argues that increasing the flow of information into the North is what can sow the seeds of popular discord to bring down the Kim Jong Un regime.
In North Korea, fewer than 1 percent of the population has Internet access. Foreign books, films and information are banned — and TV only broadcasts propaganda. Breaking down the censorship and surveillance state from within, Thae believes, is the only way to bring down North Korea’s nuclear weapons-obsessed leader.
With information comes education, Thae says — and that can lead to a popular uprising. “Once they are educated to that level, I am sure they will stand up,” Thae told reporters.
A shortwave radio station called Free North Korea Radio has been delivering information from outside the country since 2005, broadcasting from the second floor of a multipurpose building just outside Seoul. “The power of radio has been huge in advancing the cause of freedom and human rights,” says Suzanne Scholte, head of the American group that partners with the station.
This kind of tactic is far more effective than any military action, Thae, the defector, said. And the power of information explains why the Pyongyang regime is so resistant to moves like propaganda loudspeakers on the border, he said. The many tactics to spread information into the North are working, he said. “The leaflets, USBs with films [stored on them] can be introduced to North Korea. So the ways of educating North Korean people for people’s uprising is also evolving,” Thae said.