While the Arab states are trying to force change upon their own society other repressive governments are naturally suppressing the internet and other forms of mass communication, blamed, or credited, depending upon your perspective, on Facebook and Twitter as these social movements were.
I North Korea state censorship is keeping the citizens in the dark about events in North Africa while it also keeps us from seeing the conditions that most North Koreans are suffering in. In an attempt to keep their northern cousins abreast of developments South Koreans are heading to the de-militarised zone and releasing helium balloons filled with information about the uprisings that have seen the end to the abusive governments in Tunis and Cairo.
Stories are selected by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and disseminated among the people. The KCNA doesn’t report civil rebellions. The North Korean Communist Party have been very specific about blocking news of national unrest. Ki Sung Kwak of the University of Sydney said: "The Party has to be very, very careful to block what is happening in Africa. They are very sensitive nowadays."
The technique of distributing news by balloon isn’t all that new, after North Korea attacked Yeonpyeong Island last year the South’s government and political activists released over 3 million balloons close to the border. Each balloon scatters its payload of leaflets when it bursts. The leaflets criticise the North Korean government, the leader Kim Jong-il personally and encourage the people to rise up in rebellion against his autocracy. This month’s balloons are also scheduled to contain toothpaste, soap and basic medicines as well as the information. The additional goods have been included as there are reports of terrible privations including starvation coming back from over the border.
The balloons are seen as a powerful means of spreading the message but it’s not thought the North Koreans will be able to act, the civilians are generally too hungry and exhausted to act while the military are fed and clothed by the government.
That hasn’t stopped the North Koreans from seeing the balloons as very dangerous too, in a statement that was delivered over the KNCA the North Korean military leadership described the balloon events as “psychological warfare” and went on to threaten to launch an attack on South Korea if the releases continued.
The two countries have technically been at war for about six decades as peace was never officially reached when hostilities halted in the Korean War. Because North Korea failed to embrace the free market economy that its’ southern neighbour and indeed as China to the north has the regime has stagnated into a corrupt autocratic family dynasty. The Great and Beloved Leader as he is known has spent many years sabre rattling against the south safe and secure in the knowledge that the Chinese would support him if he talked himself into any really big trouble and the rest of the world considered that a real possibility. That was at least until Wikileaks revealed China’s true attitude toward him: they regard The Great Leader as a “spoiled child” and would accept Korean reunification. Of course the North Korean people don’t know that, but Kim does so now he’s rattling that empty scabbard just to impress his people, no-one else.