Opening the North Korean Digital Eyes

The more I explore the extraordinary space which is North Korea the more I am struck by the culture of the isolation. The Communist regime would very much like to maintain a firm controlling grip on the population – the proletariat that they create an imaginary façade of a culture which the west copies and follows. The creation of a pop culture in North Korea has been centred on creating an image of a controlled and orderly communist state. Whatever pop culture exists in the country has been placed there by the government so the North Korean people see only a cultural identity which has been chosen for them and not freely created by them.

However, this isolationist policy can only go so far. The westernisation of next door neighbour, China and the leaking of popular culture across the demilitarised zone from South Korea means that the Leadership of North Korea cannot completely blank out the migration of digital culture across borders. Rather than make it this illegal they destroy the credibility of the information and substitute their own.


Published on May 18, 2012

‘Propaganda’ (95min) – Part 1


These examples demonstrate how the Communist Government of North Korea handles the incursion of western media influences into the population’s mainstream digital experience. Given this ‘propaganda’ and the abject poverty of the nation and the digital world does not exist within the political borders of the country. I found this extremely disturbing because living in our culture of freedom of speech and enjoying free access to the outside world, I have difficult coming to terms with a world which allows this to happen. In our culture we are fortunate to be able to experience the enormous changes that are offered and created by digital technology yet others in the world are given no choice and are told that our freedoms are imperialist attempts to undermine their world and threaten the cultural purity that is presented farcically to them.


Radio Caroline euan walker


I heard about the pirate radio ships which operated outside the British territorial waters when British radio stations attempted to break the BBC’s monopoly on radio frequencies in the 1960’s. This is what is needed to open North Korean people to popular culture of the world. Unfortunately the despotic instability of the NK regime would make this form of protest a perilous proposition given the leaderships willingness to shoot at things.


  1. Yep, that’s terrifying.
    That ‘anti-propaganda’ documentary is actually so powerful though, I found myself agreeing with it up until they focused on propaganda words that westerners like to use, like freedom, liberty etc… If you tried to convince people who believed that film, that they needed freedom and democracy they would pick up on these words as ‘Tricks’ or ‘lies’ by the west and dismiss the argument. The documentary does however paint a painfully true image of Western Popular culture, maybe we can learn something about our own culture by how we are portrayed


    1. Hi Nathan. Thanks for the comment. The whole autoenthnographic experience I have had with North Korea has fascinated me and I agree with you 100% it is scary how close we are to doing the same thing but in a much more subtle way and with the sanction of the citizens and governments of countries who say they have freedom of speech as a fundemental right. Yes! Are we so different?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s