Average North Korean's Knowledge of the Rest of the World

This is hard to imagine. Cell phones need towers and services. Are those black market too?

I believe they have multiple cell networks in north korea. One which is internal only and another one which can make international calls and text messages which only diplomats, senior party officials and foreigners legally in NK can use.

I imagine there is quite a black market in selling SIM cards that work on the international network, but the penalties for getting caught with one without permission are also harsh.

To someone with no understanding of golf or bowling, these claims will not be in the least impressive.

I have no doubt that most North Koreans are perfectly well aware that much if not all that they are told about the wonderfulness of the Kims and the awfulness of the outside world is utter bullshit.

North Korea is a very poor, very incompetently run country. Yes, it is a brutally repressive regime, but it is not a regime that is smart or efficient enough to keep all its people systematically misinformed about the outside world (however much the regime might wish it). Repressive regimes that were much better resourced and much better run, such as the Soviet Union under Stalin, have failed to do this.

I suspect you are MUCH better off imagining what that conversation would have been like than you would be with memories of a conversation with a DPRK stooge.

He was most likely NOT alone - there would have been someone there watching him and making sure he said only what he was authorized to say. And that he did not go anywhere he was not supposed to go.

Kim Jong Un attended school in Switzerland - a wonderful opportunity to meet young people from all over the world. Remember, he is the third-born; he was not raised with the expectation of ever coming close to ruling.
Reports are that he never talked to anyone outside class, and, if he wanted to go off campus, his sole outside activity was dinner at the DPRK’s Ambassador’s home.

See the article linked below for a few highlights from the “Hermit Kingdom” of Nth Korea.
Holy fucking wow. :eek:


That’s just some of the highlights. Seriously.

I met two North Koreans when I put a semester in at Fudan University in 2009 and there were several North Koreans living in the foreign student dorm. We shared the same floor. I arrived about a week before they left but managed to have a couple of conversations (combination of Mandarin and English). Unfortunately my Mandarin wasn’t very that good and their English wasn’t up to par either so our conversations were pretty rudimentary.

One was a 19 year old guy studying physics and the other was a 40ish medical doctor doing some work at Fudan. This doc had been to all of the wonderful vacations spots of the world (Angola, Sudan, Syria etc.). He mostly wanted to talk about women. I have been told that North Korea has amazingly beautiful women and that Russia was a close second.

Both seemed fairly apathetic to being abroad and clearly had a fairly good handle on life outside the DPRK.

They had SHIT loads of stuff they were taking back to North Korea stashed in their dorm rooms (DVD players, appliances, clothing, electronics) and were obviously from well-connected families and most definetly NOT the average bloke implied by the OP.

One of the very, very few regrets of my life was that I didn’t join in their soju activities during their last night in Shanghai. I had come back from dinner that night and heard their little party going down at the end of the hall…should have just walked down…I even had a bottle of rum in my room.

Apparently they relented and joined the twentieth century sometime after 2000. There is now a cell service, but it is strictly limited. However, in a land where everyone is hungry, I imagine the price to get a functional black market cellphone is pretty low.

Don’t forget, for the elite and upper middle class, this land is not much different than life under Saddam or Quaddaffi or Khomeni or Brezhnev - you keep your head down, don’t attract attention, and parrot the party line when asked - but have access to a moderate amount of contraband depending on rank, influence, and money.

One of my relatives used to talk with professor types from the old soviet union, and they laughed at our impression of the society. This was not a society of fanatic puritans kicking in the doors gestapo-style; the vast majority were opportunists who knew how to use influence to get what they wanted. As long as they kept their heads down… same probably in N Korea.

As for the peasant class - well, they aren’t stupid either. They know they’re being fed hogwash (perhaps literally) but they have no base or alternative sources beyond that to determine what the other possible realities are, so they probably repeat some of what they are told.

You missed a really good point:
The required portraits come complete with a “special” cleaning cloth - it and only it is to be used to keep the portraits spotless; it can only be used to clean the portraits.

One site of note re DPRK: http://38north.org

“It is of the highest importance not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones … you say we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.” - Sherlock Holmes.

I watched the Frontline special on NK last night. Apparently, the people of NK are learning more and more about the rest of the world as media is smuggled in and out of the country. Thumb drives and DVDs are hot property. One smuggler said how guys liked action movies and ladies liked soap operas. Illicit radios are also hot. One thing that surprised me was watching a women scream at and fight with local cops. The cops were trying to stop her illegal bus service and she wouldn’t back down, calling him an asshole and demanding to see his “Stars” to prove he was an officer.

So they’re not as completely in the dark as one might think.

I watched that last night as well. The images of those kids in the street were heartbreaking.

I was heartened to see the few incidents of people talking back to authority. That woman berating the soldier was amazing to see. And listening to the two teenagers as they watched and commented on the bootleg DVD was really interesting.

Back in 1997 when I was stationed in Seoul, I very glibly predicted that the regime would topple in ten years. I was wrong about that, but I can’t help but wonder how much longer the Kim dynasty can hold out.

Information is a powerful tool. the more these people have access to, the more questions they are going to want answered.