A Silicon Valley hackathon for North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, shown here, is not going to like this themed hackathon at all.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, shown here, is not going to like this themed hackathon at all.

The Human Rights Foundation plans to host a two-day hackathon in San Francisco. The idea is to generate "new ways to get information safely into North Korea."

From the Guardian:

Hack North Korea, scheduled to take place in San Francisco on 2-3 August, is organised by the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based group that focuses on closed societies. Several prominent North Korean defectors will attend the event including pro-democracy activist Park Sang-hak, former North Korean child prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, media personality Park Yeon-mi and Kim Heung-Kwang, a former professor in computer studies in North Korea. They are expected to speak on the methods currently used to get information into the country, which include CDs and DVDs, USB sticks, shortwave radio, and leaflets dropped from balloons.

More at North Korea Tech blog, and on the HRF website.

Notable Replies

  1. Hello?

    Yes, this is Dog.

  2. Are you there dog? It's me, Margaret.

  3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the majority of the population not anywhere near connected - North Korea has it's own intranet, right, but only a very few people are connected to that? Nor do they have access to computers on which to view cd-roms, use thumbdrives to read wikipedia. And the people who do have access are probably less likely to be able to have the freedom to view them?

    It seems to me the leaflets might be a good idea, except for the fact that I'm guessing anyone caught with one would end up in a bad way. Same with shortwave radio. But of the methods being used so far, it seems like these would be the most effective though.

    So, I guess this is more about finding more effective ways to share information, is there really a lack of information about the brutality of the regime? What effect is information sharing about the outside world going to play? It seems to me there might be more basic problems facing north koreans over and above their lack of access to information. We might only be able to address that through the regime, with the help of the Chinese. If there is still a massive lack of food for most rural north koreans, they aren't in a position to revolt, even with all the information in the world.

  4. Outside the major cities, you're right.

    But there is a class of people inside the cities who have access to DVD players and to PCs, although they don't have Internet access. A lot of people learned about South Korea and the outside world in general through watching bootleg Chinese videos of ROK soap operas on their VCRs. These days most information is smuggled in through DVDs and thumb drives.

    For many decades the DPRK regime did a great job of concealing the truth about the rest of the world from North Koreans. Thus although their lives were hard, they thought the reasons their lives were hard had more to do with forces bent on destroying the motherland, rather than the regime in charge of the motherland.

    So as miserable as life has been for North Koreans, by and large they have continued to support their government, because the Kim regime has controlled information flow and provided its own version of the truth. I suppose that the ministries and other who promote the smuggling of foreign media into the DPRK hope that they will eventually erode support for the Kim dictatorship so that real change can take place.

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