It’s no news that the North Korean state is the world’s last standing totalitarian regime. Its people are closely watched and persecuted if deemed a state rebel, whilst imprisonment, torture and even death sentences are handed out fluently to those who express opposition to the totalitarian family dictatorship. With that in mind, what is the nature of social media in North Korea? Do social media platforms even exist in North Korea? How have the North Korean government managed to survive in spite of the major social media revolution that has clearly gripped the world?
Understanding North Korea’s Political Landscape
The first thing that must be understood about the North Korean social media landscape is that it has very limited internet access. This is despite the fact that the people have a strong affinity for technology and gadgets. Essentially those who are educated are aware that there’s a wider internet world overseas and this has led to many North Koreans seeking such greener pastures abroad.
In order to understand why there’s limited internet access in North Korea one must come to terms with the nature of its totalitarian state. Effectively, the government strives to keep people in check through separating North Koreans from the rest of the world, whilst propagandizing images and ideals of the country’s fruitfulness, prosperity and superiority to the rest of the world. This is to the extent that foreigners are separated from the local people and very few foreign reporters are allowed to travel to North Korea.
With this in mind, it becomes clear why the North Korean state is reluctant to provide its people with an abundance of internet access – which will reconcile the country with the rest of the world and flood foreign ideals into the country.
However it’s also widely acknowledged amongst much of the North Korean people that in order to break free from the totalitarian chains of Kin Jong-un’s regime, a connection with the rest of the world is essential. As a result many North Koreans risk their lives to smuggle information in and out of the country, despite the result of potentially being a death sentence if caught.
Access to the internet is not available to normal citizens but only a select number of people, known as elites, in addition to some scientists and academics.
Furthermore, rather than the internet that the rest of the world has come to know, North Korea’s internet is more like a company intranet – as extravagant it may be.
Certainly extravagance is the word that can be used to underline the country’s internet. As with many other aspects of the country – which are often manipulated and decorated with extravagance to indicate prosperity and modernity – North Korean internet is colourful to say the least.
However, in regards to its actual functions, it boasts no more than message boards, state sponsored media and chat functions. This leaves no space for social media.
In essence, the country has managed to deal with social media by attempting to survive without it.
This cannot last long however.