Is North Korea the latest example of how digital connectivity is enhancing transparency, accountability and democracy?
“The global reach of digital technology has armed the public with tools hard to imagine even a decade ago,” says Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster a Free Press and an Open Internet Around the World, a report from the Center for International Media Assistance, released this week.
ICT availability is even impacting one of the world’s most repressive and formerly closed regimes, reports suggest.
“When Pyongyang’s latest long-range rocket disintegrated shortly after blast-off in mid-April, North Korea surprised observers with an unusual admission of failure, transmitted across the country on state television. In the past it has simply lied, telling the country that failed launches were successful,” the Financial Times reports:
Brian Myers, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Dongseo university, said Pyongyang had realised it could no longer lie so easily. “The only way to explain the admission is North Koreans’ increased connectedness to outside sources,” he said.
Andrei Lankov, a professor of North Korean studies at Kookmin university in Seoul, said the state had to accept it could no longer monitor everyone, as it could in the days of only a few public phone boxes. “The authorities do their best to eavesdrop but they can hardly digest such a volume of traffic,” he said. …Lankov said it would be an exaggeration to say phones were already undermining state security but added that “the potential was there”.
North Korea will forsake “total control” and would shift to a model where “the government makes an example of a select group to try and force the rest of the country to stay in line, like the Chinese do,” says Scott Bruce, a director of the Nautilus Institute, a think-tank that researches the Stalinist state.
“Time is not on their side,” said Siegfried Hecker, a US expert on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. “Cell phones are going to get them in the end”.