The Silent, Slow, Stubborn Revolution

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The Silent, Slow, Stubborn Revolution

September 28, 2015

Early this year, Wired ran an uplifting, yet also heartbreaking story on a smuggling operation taking place on the North Korean border. The smuggled goods are USBs containing e-books, music, action movies, and episodes of the sitcom ‘Friends’ — in other words, snippets of life in the developed world, where supermarket shelves are always full.  The purpose of the operation is none other but to overthrow Kim Jong-Un’s regime by opening the minds of its citizens.

The man that plans and conducts the action, Kang Chol-hwan, has been labeled as a wild optimist. Nevertheless, the most effective revolutions are in fact silent, slow, stubborn, and most importantly, peaceful. Furthermore, only a revolution of ideas, a change in ideology that arises from each individual mind, will have long-lasting beneficial effects—even though such revolution might very well be a long time in the making.

Kang explained his reasons for the operation in a similar way:

For every USB drive I send across, there are perhaps 100 North Koreans who begin to question why they live this way. Why they’ve been put in a jar… They see the leisure, the freedom…  It cancels out everything they’ve been told. And when that happens, it starts a revolution in their mind…

Then there’s no way the North Korean government, in its current form, could continue to exist.

Kang’s story is also reminiscent of 1980s Romania, where a VHS racketeer and an English translator smuggled and dubbed thousands of Western movies into Romanian, especially action movies. These were then distributed and illegally screened for groups of as few as 20 to 30 people. In this way, huddled in front of one TV screen showing them basic comforts they could only dream of, people became painfully aware of their poverty and isolation. The fall of the communist regime came, somewhat inevitably, before the decade was over.

The Romanian story was made into a documentary this year, titled ‘Chuck Norris vs. Communism’ (teaser and website).  Perhaps not too long in the future there will also be a documentary made about Kang’s simple, but crucial resistance movement in North Korea. 

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