Balloons are one way to get information into the Hermit Kingdom, but Gladstein says the vast majority of the flash drives make their way to the Chinese border and then cross into North Korea through the flourishing black markets of the country’s underground economy.
The North Korean government has executed peoplefor possessing what it views as illicit, foreign content. But people are willing to pay a week’s wages for the USB drives on the black market.
According to Gladstein, defectors say that what they are seeing changes their lives.
“The majority of them have come into contact with foreign media, and they have displayed a huge interest,” Gladstein says. “The North Koreans who escaped have told us that this is transforming society.”
He says even in Pyongyang, where the regime is most controlling and has the most support, there are signs of change.
“Western reporters who are brought in to the capitol — into this highly choreographed, you know, sort of stage setting — even they can see little cracks.
"I mean, they can see people wearing jeans, they can see people speaking a little bit differently, wearing maybe South Korean haircuts [or] having jewelry or some sort of accent on them that shows a little bit of colour and individuality.”
“So even in the heart of the regime, you’re starting to see some change.”
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