Stories to Inspire #9: Flashdrives for Freedom

Stimulating civil society in North-Korea. Seems impossible?

agenda August 3, 2017

To disagree with – or come up with plans contrary to your government – is an important aspect of individual freedom. However, reaching North Koreans with this message seems almost impossible.

The citizens are cut of from outside information and do not have access to the internet. Impossible to reach? Not for the people of Flashdrives for Freedom! They found a way to send global information into North-Korea.

Flashdrives for Freedom is a cooperation between The Human Rights Foundation, Forum 280 and a group of North-Korean defectors who established civil society groups dedicated to sending information, culture, truth and knowledge back to their families, friends, and neighbors. They want to outsmart the censorship of the North Korean regime through smuggling flashdrives into the country. While the North Koreans do not have access to the internet, many do have phones or computers with a USB-entrance. Imported flashdrives are a connection to the world beyond the borders of North-Korea and one of their few opportunities to get non-propaganda input.


Flashdrives for Freedom

The activists avoid confirming the North-Korean propaganda, according which the Western world set the goal to destroy North Korea. Therefore the flashdrives do not contain political content. Rather the flashdrives are filled with a Korean translation of Wikipedia, South-Korean blockbusters or practical documentaries on business development or current global news.

People need to know what’s outside before they can start to revolt to their regime.

Even though distributing or consuming information from outside the country can lead to charges up 15 years in labor camps, Korean defectors and human rights activists continue their work. In 2016 ten thousand flashdrives got into North Korea. Some were dropped from airplanes, but most are smuggled past the Chinese-Korean border. The campaign to collect these ‘plastic pieces of peace’ had an amazing result. Up to twenty thousand flashdrives were donated, mostly by big companies. These were all emptied thoroughly and then it’s showtime! As Jim stated during the¬†Border Sessions¬†event: “People need to know what’s outside before they can start to revolt to their regime.” And that is how South-Korean blockbusters stimulate civic power.

Want to know more about civic power? Read our publication Activism, Artivism and Beyond.

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