North Korean Defector: Information Flow Will Help Bring Down Kim Jong Un : Parallels After defecting, the ex-diplomat told his sons: "You can go to the Internet, you can do Internet games whenever you like, you can read any books, watch any films." In North Korea, this was impossible.
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North Korean Defector: Information Flow Will Help Bring Down Kim Jong Un

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North Korean Defector: Information Flow Will Help Bring Down Kim Jong Un

North Korean Defector: Information Flow Will Help Bring Down Kim Jong Un

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now a peek into the most isolated country in the world, North Korea. Its highest ranking defector in decades says getting more information into the country is key to toppling Kim Jong Un's regime. NPR's Elise Hu reports.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: You hear a lot about the North Korean elite. Thae Yong Ho actually was one. He served as North Korea's deputy ambassador in London for 10 years before defecting last summer with his wife and two sons.

THAE YONG HO: And when we got out of the embassy, I told them that now I'm going to cut the chain of slavery, and you are a free man.

HU: The family now lives in South Korea, where his 19- and 26-year-old sons' first concern was whether they could freely browse the Internet.

THAE: You can go to internet. You can do Internet game what - whenever you like. You can read any books. You can watch any films.

HU: That's not life in North Korea. Outside books, films and information are banned. Fewer than 1 percent of North Koreans have access to the Internet, and breaking down the censorship and surveillance state from within, Thae believes, is the only way to bring down the nuclear-weapons-obsessed leader Kim Jong Un. He says with information comes knowledge, and that can lead to a popular uprising.

THAE: Once they are educated to that level, I'm sure that they will stand up.

HU: On the second floor of a multipurpose building just outside Seoul is one effort to educate the north, a shortwave radio station called Free North Korea Radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Korean).

HU: Since 2005, it's been broadcasting across the border into the north for whoever can get its signal past jamming efforts.

SUZANNE SCHOLTE: The power of radio has been huge in advancing the cause of freedom and human rights.

HU: Suzanne Scholte is head of a private U.S. organization that helps fund the station. The station puts out at least an hour a day of programming produced by North Korean defectors for their fellow North Koreans to hear.

SCHOLTE: This is a critical way for them to understand that the source of their misery is Kim Jong Un and their true ally is the people of South Korea and the people of America.

HU: This kind of tactic is far more effective than any military action, the high-ranking diplomat defector says. And that's why the regime is so resistant to South Korean moves like loudspeakers on the border.

THAE: Kim Jong Un regime is trying every possibility to stop the influx of outside information.

HU: He argues information from the West into the former Soviet Union was key to bringing it down and that the many tactics used to spread information into the north these days are working.

THAE: The leaflets and USBs with films can be introduced to North Korea. So the ways of educating North Korean people for people's uprising is also evolving.

HU: Despite the total surveillance state, those with the means simply pay off the officers who catch them watching or listening to outside information.

THAE: So even this surveillance system getting more and more corrupted.

HU: Giving information an opening to get into a notoriously closed country. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLOCKHEAD SONG, "CARNIVORES UNITE")

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