Spies, Entrepreneurs and the Internet in North Korea

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

Demilitarized Zone, North Korea – Photo by Joseph A Ferris III

By Contributing Writer Gabriel Mizrahi

According to an envoy I met in a park in Pyongyang, there is one informant for every three citizens in the DPRK. To put that penetration into perspective, the East German Stasi, one of the most pervasive police organizations in history, boasted one informant for every ten citizens. Some experts dispute this figure—naturally, given the astounding implications—but the familiarity of its source with state espionage gave me pause.

Before I traveled to the DPRK, I was told that I would encounter normal citizens, and then I would encounter actors playing normal citizens, and that the obvious distinction would be part of North Korea’s entertainment value. That duplicity seemed to hold up when James Bond Villain probed us about our jobs—asking Jordan, at one point, how many people he has “influence over in your country”—an exchange that might have been genuinely motivated but never quite felt like innocent conversation. The porcelain face, in contrast, reversed my suspicions. Her genuine curiosity about life in America and our impromptu English lessons on the bus resulted in a moving exchange and her crowning achievement: “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it.”

Continue reading this post at The North Korea Blog.

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