The Latest in Balloonpolitik

12 Jan

NKEW reflects on the latest twist in inter-Korean balloonpolitik – a real DPRK won for every defector. As North Korean authorities hunt down leaflet-bearing balloons larded with greenbacks floated across the DMZ by South Korean human rights groups, South Korean activists will now replace greenbacks with DPRK won.

But other than creating routine problems for North Korean state security, I am not sure what specific results human rights groups seek from these activities. North Korea’s information blockade cracked over a decade ago—even in the southern provinces where the balloons drift. Although people in these areas might possess little positive information about the outside world, they probably have a general sense that the state of global affairs is not as their leaders portray. So, breaking the information blockade is a necessary but not sufficient condition for social change in the DPRK.

Unfortunately, the information on the leaflets is predominately non-actionable. Rather than condemning Kim Jong il’s lifestyle, the leaflets should provide instructions on accessing foreign radio and television broadcasts, tactics for clandestine organization, case studies in successful defection, business and smuggling opportunities, local prices, and even mundane news like sports scores, movie reviews, etc. This would likely be much more valuable to the North Koreans than political propaganda.

This is an interesting tactic, however, and I look forward to seeing what the next moves will be from players in both the North and South.

Perhaps, revaluation involving issuing new notes perhaps?

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