North Korea's "video revolution"
The Economist on technology and North Korea:
Andrei Lankov of the Australian National University, an astute observer of North Korea, describes how a relatively minor technological revolution in China changed the lives of many North Koreans. Earlier this decade DVD players fell dramatically in price, so South Korean households quickly dumped their old VCRs in favour of the new players. Smugglers picked up the old units for next to nothing and sold them in North Korea for $40 or so apiece—a price that plenty of urban North Korean families could afford if they saved up.
The consequence was what Mr Lankov calls a “video revolution”: a flood of South Korean soap operas, melodramas and music videos entering North Korea by the same route and delighting new audiences. The impact of the astounding affluence on display—the stars’ clothes and cars, Seoul’s glittering skyline—exposes the central lie on which the regime bases its claim to rule: that South Korea is backward, impoverished and exploited. Korean-language programming from abroad on radio sets imported from China (and thus not tuned permanently to state radio) reinforces this discovery. Thus, disillusion and anger with the regime only mounts.