In an age of instant mobile communication and worldwide social networks, North Korea remains a dead-spot of connectivity. The North Korean government intentionally isolates ordinary North Koreans in order to constrain them and restrict them to propaganda that portrays the outside world as dangerous and threatening. This helps them justify their development of nuclear weapons and focus on security issues even while millions of North Korean children suffer from malnutrition, and ultimately enables the regime to preserve their power.
Too often, the way the world views North Korea has contributed to that mutual isolation. We have often focused too much on the Kim leaders and the nuclear weapons, seeing North Korea as part threat, and part joke. And we’ve missed the most important thing: 24 million North Korean people who face the world’s worst structure of oppression with a quiet bravery, resilience, and a creativity which is enabling them to gradually push back against that oppression.
But in recent years North Koreans have been finding ways to break through their government-imposed isolation by secretly accessing foreign media, contacting the outside world through mobile phones smuggled into the border regions, using illegal radios to listen to foreign broadcasts in the dead of night, and even escaping their country and finding sanctuary in other societies.
We have also seen the emergence of an international movement of support and solidarity for the North Korean people, as citizens all over the world learn of the challenges facing the North Korean people as well as their potential to be a force for progress.
At Liberty in North Korea, we have the great privilege of working directly with North Korean refugees and helping them reach safety and freedom in South Korea and the United States. During the journey, we are often able to share with them photos and messages from people around the world who have made the cause of the North Korean people their own and stepped forward to support them at their time of need. Our North Korean friends have often told us that they had no idea that there were people out there that knew or cared about their struggle, and learning this has given them great encouragement and strength.
TO: the North Korean People is a website that will make the international movement of support for the North Korean people visible. This website will be shown to all the North Korean refugees that we work with and also made accessible to the tens of thousands of North Koreans who have escaped the country. Some are still stuck in China but may have access to the Internet, and many others have made it to South Korea and other safe countries.
These messages will reveal the global community of support working together with the people, and will share hope and encouragement with the people as they overcome their challenges and fulfill their potential. We believe it is crucial to work with and support North Korean refugees, as so many of them have the potential to be agents of change on this issue.
Of course, the North Korean government denies their people access to the Internet, so use of this site will be extremely limited inside the country, but we will not let this stop us. We are partnering with radio broadcasters to transmit messages of support into the country in a low-tech way that the regime cannot block, using both shortwave and medium wave transmissions. We will also make the video messages available to groups that have the capacity to smuggle them into the country on USB drives and other technologies.