South Korean organization uses media to inform northern neighbors

North Korea is the Bermuda Triangle of media, prompting some North Koreans to purchase illegal TVs, radios, DVDs and CDs to expand their knowledge of the outside world, according to guest speaker Eunjung Park from Open Radio North Korea.

Liberty in North Korea, a non-profit human rights organization, hosted Park on Oct. 26 to expose the limited sources of media within North Korea. Open Radio North Korea is also a human rights non-profit organization, which seeks to provide North Korean citizens with knowledge about the outside world through radio and newspapers. The organization publishes a biweekly Korean newspaper and a weekly English paper to provide readers with an inside look at life inside North Korea and its surrounding areas.

The North Korean government has only one radio station and one newspaper that are accessible to citizens, Park said. They also do not have access to the Internet.

What limited exposure they do have to media is strictly controlled by the North Korean government, which uses their media as propaganda and often misconstrues international news stories, Park said.

Since the famine of the 1990s, North Koreans have more access to international ideas through the expansion of the Chinese black market, Park said. The famine provided North Korea with an increase in exchange of cultural goods despite the hardships in North Korea; many refugees did not intend to leave their country permanently, although many left during the famine to obtain food and money for their families in North Korea. Travel is difficult in North Korea, if caught leaving or entering the country a citizen would be forced into a labor camp, according to Park.

The North Korean government Penal Code amendments were made in 2004 to inhibit North Koreans from accessing non-government issued media, Park said. Listening to a foreign broadcast is a serious crime in North Korea, according to a 2009 article in The New Yorker.

Open Radio North Korea provides the citizens with culture and educational programs and radio shows that often target women and young people, Park said. Cultural shows will often compare being a housewife in North Korea and South Korea. Educational shows will compare news stories on similar events and discuss the difference in reporting and coverage between the countries.

"It's the only way left to reach North Korea and bring about change," Park said.

Open Radio North Korea hopes to incorporate American students in the creation of suitable radio shows for their North Korean peers, Park said. South Korean students are already working on creating programs for their North Korean counterparts.

If caught with any material from Open Radio North Korea or any other black market materials, North Koreans risk going to labor camps without a trial, Park said. She said she believes obtaining international information is worth risking imprisonment.

You can reach this writer at news@theeagleonline.com

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle