Weapons of Kim Jong Un's Destruction? Old USB Drives

Groups hope to smuggle 2K into N. Korea every month, laden with movies, TV
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2016 9:20 AM CST
In this 2015 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers remarks at a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

(Newser) – Got any old flash drives gathering dust in a drawer? There's a growing movement to get them into the hands of ordinary North Koreans, loaded with Western movies and shows in the hopes of offering a more realistic look at the outside world Pyongyang paints as utterly bleak. Andy Greenberg first did a Wired cover story on the grass-roots efforts in March 2015, and he now follows up on the latest efforts by groups such as the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Center, the Silicon Valley-based Forum 280, and more. "It's literally a key that will unlock a new world for North Koreans," says Sharon Stratton of North Korea Strategy Center's USB-smuggling operations. "It's important that they see 'people in the outside world [who] I don't know are sending me these thumb drives,' which she says plants the seed "that maybe Americans aren't the big bad enemy after all."

Human Rights Foundation's Alex Gladstein, who helped form Flash Drives for Freedom, tells NBC News: "Obviously, one flash drive is not going to depose Kim Jong Un, but it could change the life of a North Korean." Gladstein adds that all you have to do is ship your thumb drive to Palo Alto, Calif., and they'll take care of the rest—meaning they'll illegally smuggle the drives (sometimes via cargo trucks, other times attached to balloons) into North Korea, hopefully as many as 2,000 a month, in an effort to pierce the Internet blackout and Kim's ban on all foreign media. "North Korea feels like this monolithic, impenetrable, unknowable black hole," says Stratton. What plays well among North Koreans? Friends and Desperate Housewives seem to be favorites, notes Wired. (Check out North Korea's version of online shopping.)

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