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May 24, 2005

Dissent In North Korea

Memo to Tim Robbins et al.: Your right to dissent is being chilled when a fascist lunatic regime may execute you for the most anodyne of political protests. Not when Bill O'Reilly says mean things about you on a cable talk show.

An anti-Kim poster is affixed to a bridge, and the dissenter films it via a camera hidden in a carton of cigarettes, and then smuggles it out of the country.

Today, the North Korean who says he shot the video on behalf of a group called the Freedom Youth League lives in hiding in Thailand under an assumed name. A small, wiry man in his 30s, he smoked L&M cigarettes nervously as he recalled his daring feat against the totalitarian government.

Everything had to be done with the utmost secrecy, he said, to the point that he and his associates communicated by means of notes passed in sacks of potatoes. He didn't dare tell even his wife.

"If we were caught, everybody would be dead," said the man, who goes by the name Park Dae Heung.

The 33-minute tape has created a sensation in Japan and South Korea, where it has aired repeatedly. South Korean human rights advocates say it is the first evidence of a nascent dissident movement inside North Korea.

Besides the banner hung on the bridge, the video shows an anti-government banner in a factory restroom and has one particularly eye-catching scene in which the camera pans over an official photograph of Kim Jong Il defaced with graffiti as a man denounces him off-camera.

The video is one of a series of samizdat videos that provide a rare glimpse of life in what may be the most secretive country in the world....

Among North Korea watchers, there is some debate about whether the filmmakers were motivated mainly by their opposition to the government or by greed. Many of the videos have been sold to Japanese television stations, which have paid as much as $200,000 for choice footage, according to some accounts.

That people are able to make such videos challenges many of the assumptions about Kim's grip on power. The videos do not necessarily mean the government is on the verge of collapse β€” the majority opinion among analysts is that it is not β€” but their existence shows that social control is fraying at the edges.

"Nobody would have dared to do such a thing three or four years ago," said Hitoshi Takase, president of Japan Independent News Net, a Tokyo-based company that distributed footage in March of an apparent public execution in North Korea.

The footage of the anti-government banners was smuggled out of North Korea across the Chinese border by activists working with the Seoul-based Citizens Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees. It has been widely shown on television and Internet sites, including [here].

Very interesting. You know, there's a lot of silly talk about the revolution in communications actually provoking a global political revolution.

Except it seems less and less silly. It's still a bit silly in its strong form restatement; no one, I think, is ready for "Starship" to release an update to its 80's non-classic, We Built This City on URL's.

Still, there is something here, and it seems to be essentially a force for truth, justice, and, dare I say, the American way of life.

Plus, there's all that free porn, which is just gravy.


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posted by Ace at 01:02 PM

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