How One Man Wants to Free North Korea With USB Drives and Pirated Movies

Illustration for article titled How One Man Wants to Free North Korea With USB Drives and Pirated Movies

North Korea is a quietly desolate otherworld, at least as far as we outsiders can tell from the bits and pieces of untouched, unpropagandized media that occasionally leak out. The key to freeing it? It could be sneaking American media in. Wired talked to one of the men who does it, and his story is fascinating.


The North Korea Strategy Center is an organization founded by Kang Chol-hwan, who spent 10 years in a North Korean gulag along with his family when his grandfather was accused of treason. Imprisoned from ages 9 to 18, and subjected to such horrors as being forced to stone the bodies of captured escapees, Kang was eventually freed for reasons left unexplained.

After his release, he discovered pirate radio and learned about North Korea from an outside perspective for the first time. From there, he dedicated his life to providing the same experience to others, though by slightly more modern means.

Wired explains his modern-day approach:

Kim has also developed what he calls stealth USB drives, designed to avoid detection. To any casual observer, the drive seems empty. But its contents reappear with a simple trigger, the details of which Kim asked that I not publicize. Not even the buyer would necessarily know that the USB contained illegal educational materials, he says. Instead, the files would simply materialize one day, a spontaneous gift Kim hopes will be as life-changing as the hard drive whose wondrous contents he once discovered.

These hundreds of painstakingly smuggled USB drives contain everything from episodes of Friends to copies of Lucy (ugh) to—you guessed it—rips of The Interview.

You can learn more about Kang's plot—his strategies and which specific shows he's keen on importing—over at Wired. Check it out, and be glad all you have to do to find contraband media is head over to the Pirate Bay. [Wired]




I'm not entirely sure if this is the same man from the documentary THE SECRET STATE OF NORTH KOREA but it is a very eye-opening film. Its on Netflix right now. This is kind of embarrassing but I'm a 21 year old American college student with Internet access and I had absolutely no idea about any of this until my English teacher made us read the book ESCAPE FROM CAMP 14. This book is about a boy who escaped one of the Labor Camps in North Korea that the state claims does not exist.

I was blind to all of this until recently. Not only do people on the outside not know what's going on, but people on the inside don't know what's going on outside since they have no Internet and communication with the outside is illegal. If you are a citizen of North Korea and try to escape without permission, your family will be punished for your actions down three generations.

It may sound ridiculous but the film The Interview will be an eye-opener to the citizens of North Korea as well. They have been told their whole lives that their leader is a God. When they realize that no one else sees him that way, maybe their country can change.

Thanks Seth Rogan.