As it stands now, North Korea is about the only country in the world unplugged to the internet. Its southern bordering neighbor state, South Korea, has one of the highest broadband internet penetration rates in the world, and is home to Samsung Electronics, one of the world leaders in mobile technology. Its northern bordering neighbor, China, also has or will soon have one of the largest growing numbers of internet users in the world.
So why is North Korea still unplugged in the twenty-first century? The main reason is fear. That is, fear that such technology will spur a possible insurrection against the powerhold of the Kim dynastic clan that has ruled the country since its inception.
Through internet, once a certain percentage of North Koreans understand that their lives are far from “normal,” a tipping point could occur in which its people will begin to reassess the very authority that has dictated almost all the terms on behalf of its people but not necessarily for its people.
For North Korea’s wifi wall to fall, information freedom must be accessible–with the following 3 steps needed to begin the process towards digital democracy within the DPRK’s cyber-wall (which my recent WSJ Korea Realtime blog today, discusses in greater detail):
(1) North Korea’s 1 million mobile phone users as a social network (albeit state controlled, at present): North Korea already has nearly one million mobile phone users, many linked with 3G access. Spottings of late model Apple iPhones and Samsung devices can also be seen especially in Pyongyang, many smuggled in from China (as are DVDs, thumb drives, and other technologies).
2. Policy speech by South Korea to put diplomatic pressure on North Korea: diplomatic pressure can be put onto North Korea to allow some, even filtered, internet access for its people on its own volition, much like in China today. In this spirit, President Park Geun-hye could make a speech to the effect of “Dear Mr. Kim Jong-eun, tear down your cyber-wall” (somewhat Reaganesque but worded slightly more delicately in consideration of Korean culture).
3. Beam and stream internet/wifi access into North Korea from bordering regions: modern technology can be used by state or non-state organizations to, in essence, beam internet and wifi access along the DMZ and other territories into North Korea. Various technologies could be used to accomplish this. With wimax technology, as just one example, a cell tower quite far away can transmit its signal to a receiver dish that is within its line of sight (the receiver is a relatively small device somewhat resembling a TV satellite dish), which then could transmit its internet signal to a radius of up to 25-30 miles away