How Activists Are Taking Down North Korea One Thumb Drive At A Time

Human Rights Foundation

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A human rights organization is smuggling “subversive” materials on flash drives into North Korea to bring down the dictatorship, reports Business Insider.

The Human Rights Foundation started the “Flash Drives for Freedom” campaign earlier this year. Activists dissatisfied with the growing humanitarian crisis in North Korea are filling flash drives with outlawed information and sneaking them into North Korea in an attempt to educate the general public and topple Kim Jong Un’s oppressive authoritarian regime.

Chief Strategy Officer for the Human Rights Foundation Alex Gladstein told Business Insider that the fragile North Korean government “has stepped up its war on outside information – both trying to restrict the flow of information at the border and by increasing the promotion of its propaganda at home and abroad.”

The “Flash Drives for Freedom” campaign is designed to break the North Korean stranglehold on information.

This project has already brought in around 20,000 flash drives from places all over the world. The drives are being wiped clean and delivered to North Korean defectors, who load the drives with information and pass them to smugglers for delivery. This project sent out its first batch in May and has sent several more batches since. Each batch has around 500 flash drives. The Human Rights Foundation hopes to send at least 10,000 flash drives by the end of the year.

In a separate interview with TheDCNF, Gladstein said that this project has two goals: to raise awareness about the situation in North Korea and show North Koreans to the world beyond their borders.

“The Kim regime can’t survive in an open information environment,” Gladstein explained to TheDCNF.

The Human Rights Foundation sees the “Flash Drives for Freedom” operation as a much more effective alternative to military action (hich could harm the North Korean people), or increased economic interaction with the Kim family (which does nothing for the North Korean citizens and only perpetuates the existence of the core problem in North Korea).

“Money can be exploited, but truth can’t be,” said Gladstein.

As for what goes on the flash drives, a group of defectors familiar with the situation in North Korea make those decisions. Typically, they include South Korean dramas, Bollywood movies, and Western films, such as “The Hunger Games.” They also put historical documentaries about global events, such as the fall of communism, and images of life in South Korea on the drives. The included material shows North Korean citizens that their country is not a utopia and that the world is not as it is described by Kim Jong Un.

The subversive material is delivered into North Korea by way of drones, an upgrade from the balloons that were used early on. The flash drives are picked up by partners inside North Korea and distributed. The drives are usually scattered about on the ground in markets and other densely-populated areas.

“Truth is an incredibly dangerous weapon,” Gladstein told Business Insider. He said that a poll of the top North Korean defector groups conducted last year revealed that all of the members expect the Kim regime to fall between 2017 and 2020.

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