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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Kim Seong Min

Interviewed June 23, 2024

In the past, there were only three methods for North Koreans to receive outside information. There was first the radio, second from leaflets, and third from diplomats were the only sources available in the past. But with technology and more advanced methods, North Koreans are getting more access to information. For example they have a strong preference for South Korean dramas and movies from the US. They get video clips from South Korea or from the US.

The missionaries in North Korea are distributing massive amounts of Bibles and mp3’s filled with Christian related files, including sermons. Nowadays the North Korean elite even the military army officers are demanding South Korean to send new television drama series that are popular in South Korea. For example, there is a television drama called Iris that they watch. North Koreans want to obtain these videos and once they enter into North Korea they are shared very rapidly.

The North Korean authorities are trying very hard to stop the distribution of these dramas and have taken extreme stances such as publicly executing those caught with these television dramas. But overall they cannot stop the control of information. For example, about ten or fifteen years ago, whenever the North Korean people wanted to bring out news from North Korea, there would be North Koreans who would illegally cross the river into China who would travel back and forth.

If they wanted to write some news they would write it inside their own jackets or suits with a magic marker so they would write to their relative or uncles using this method. Although the border guards at the North Korean border would try to detect this, it was impossible for them to flip every single piece of cloth, which made it a reliable method. Nowadays since memory chips are small, they are easy to hide everywhere. These sometimes contain clips of severe beating and public executions that are taken by using hidden cameras and then are exported out of North Korea. So there is some improvement to the way that the information is flowing.

When I was serving in the army I would remember that every morning when I would wake up that the ground was filled with leaflets from South Korea. In those leaflets I learned about how many cars South Korea produced every year, what the GDP was, and there was a particular image stuck in my head of the Yeouido Square [A famous park in Seoul].

I remember there was a big crowd of people wearing all sorts of colorful clothing who were demonstrating. At that moment I realized, “Wow! South Koreans wear a lot of different clothes.”This image remained with me for a long time. After that I would seek information on the radio and it was from the radio broadcastings that I learned that South Korea was not an impoverished or starving country. And lastly that they do not kill people who defect from North Korea.