By Beth Main.
Many North Korean refugees escape through the Northern border with China, wading across the Tumen River and then laying low in China or eventually making it to South Korea. Heading in the opposite direction, smugglers have for decades been transporting foreign electronics and goods into the hermit kingdom. Now supreme leader Kim Jong Un (sexiest man alive AND Time’s Person of the Year) has ordered an intensification of border controls and stricter punishments for anyone caught trying to cross.
In October, Kim called on his security services to “fight against the enemy’s ideological and cultural infiltration” and “ruthlessly crush those hostile elements.”
The 1,420 kilometre (880 mile) border with China has long been a gateway for foreign electronics to be smuggled into North Korea – mobile phones that can call abroad, radio’s that can pick up South Korean broadcasts, DVDs of foreign films and the especially popular South Korean dramas.
Any information regarding the comparative un-shit-ness outside world is incredibly detrimental to the Kim regime, which is based on complete control and indoctrination of the entire country. If North Koreans can hear car adverts on a radio station from South Korea, or see a drama with pre-marital love affairs, Samsung smart phones and a media that criticises its own government then they might reasonably begin to question the idea that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is heaven on Earth.
North Korea, for the sake of its economy, has been slowly poking its nose out into the outside world. Foreign tourists are allowed to visit Pyongyang (on strictly controlled tours), officials are cosying up to foreign investors and occasionally Western movies are shown on state television. Over a million of North Korea’s 24 million people now have mobile phones (which can only make domestic calls) and smugglers confirm an avid market for any South Korean drama imports.