As everyone that knows me is aware, I’m deeply interested in North Korea. I find it all fascinating: foreign policy, America’s involvement, the Regime, and in particular the markets and the rise of cultural products, and the telecommunication industry.
I’m actually working on a paper in relation to the later two of that list. Many North Korean scholars have high hopes that through the use of the markets with access to cultural and communication products like South Korean dramas, Chinese TVs that can pick up Chinese broadcasts, radios, etc, that there will be a change from the ground up. Meaning that there will be examples of civic unrest leading to the ultimate goal: democracy.
This will be a long and hard fight, but there are examples of change from within the Regime that are tolerating the capitalist market ventures, and allowing forms of advertising, mostly small billboards, to be present. Advertising is an increasingly capitalist concept, so one can only believe that the country truly is changing via the capitalistic enterprise of the markets.
The telecommunication industry also has a large amount of foreign investment to rebuild the failing infrastructure. Orascom, an Egyptian company is investing up to $400 million in a 3G-cell phone system that would be quite comparable to the international standard with SMS, voice mail, and call waiting, etc capabilities. This is exciting as well for multiple reasons. Orascom has developed the largest advertising campaign, well really the only advertising campaign in North Korea, with an information basis to teach the citizens about the products, and how to use them. Also, in Castell’s article “The Mobile Civil Society,” it is discussed how the citizens in the Philippines used their cell phones to ultimately oust the President. It can only be hoped that events like this could begin in the DPRK. And lastly, for when the Regime finally does fall, it doesn’t hurt the rest of the world that part of the society is up to date for economic reasons.
Sure this hope for democracy seems like a long shot, especially through the “use” of items such as South Korean dramas, and radio broadcasts that are illegal for the North Koreans to hear. This is the best hope for a change within the civil society that could prompt large-scale reform. If anything, it gives the world diplomacy options for how to start the progress, at a time that it appears North Korea needs it.