Saturday, February 05, 2011

North Koreans ponder developments in Egypt

How much longer will North Koreans succumb to an incompetent regime who can’t even guarantee them a basic means of survival?

Radio Free Asia (RFA), quoting an anonymous businessman, reported that many North Koreans have heard of the Egyptian protests via their cell phones and that officials are taking events very seriously. 

The report said that North Koreans living abroad had spread the news to their relatives and families in North Korea, and that they passed it on to others within the country via cell phones. While international calls are closely monitored, the inland cellular network is not entirely controlled. The report also said that North Koreans also receive the information by secretly (and illegally) watching South Korean television news programs.

Speculations are rising in South Korea about whether it could spark mass protests in North Korea where the population also suffers under an incompetent authoritarian regime. 

Ironically, Egypt's Orascom Telecom owns a majority of North Korea's only 3G cellular network. The CEO of the company met and had dinner with North Korean leader Kim Jung-il on January 26, the day after the Egyptian protests ignited. One wonders how the dinner conversation went.

Another irony is that the Egyptian regime faced a strong rebellion when Mubarak attempted to transfer power to his son. In North Korea, where power has been transferred for three generations, the Egyptians democratic protests will not be treated as something that happened in a random country far away. 

Kim Jong-il will no doubt do all that is possible to set the information barrier high to prevent the news from spreading to the North Korean masses.

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