As ordinary North Koreans have found ways to get information the state denies them — soppy South Korean dramas and peppy pop songs, novels, news from the outside world — so too has the Kim regime found news ways to crack down on them, The Washington Post reports:
The regime has developed sophisticated new tools to check just what its citizens are up to, according to Compromising Connectivity, a new report from Intermedia, a Washington-based research group. The report underlines the challenges in getting information into the most tightly controlled country on the planet — and the challenges that North Korea watchers as diverse as the U.S. Congress and small defector-led groups face in trying to penetrate it.
“In a lot of ways, the expansion of information is continuing,” said Nat Kretchun, the lead author of the report, which draws on interviews with 34 recent defectors from North Korea. “It’s just that we also see a lot of signs that the North Korean government is gearing up to combat it.”
“They’re clearly trying to innovate their way out of the breakdown of the security apparatus rather than going back to Kim Il Sung times,” he added, referring to the founding president of the totalitarian state.
The specter of chemical weapons proliferation, of VX in the hands of terrorists, now looms ever larger. The apparent shipment from North Korea to Malaysia of VX—a lethal substance banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention—is a brazen violation of international law (despite the fact that North Korea is not a signatory to the convention).
The regime is also trying to control market prices as the price of rice continues to increase, Daily NK reports. A recent forum at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group, highlighted a Daily NK report on the emergence of private markets in the Hermit State.