For decades, South Korea and the United States have gone to great lengths to turn North Koreans against their oppressive regime. Millions of dollars were spent airdropping pro-democracy literature and information exposing the true ills of communism and relative benefits and economic prosperity of capitalism and democracy. Yet, now, it appears that their task may be made much simpler and more cost effective.
Over the past few years and particularly the past year under Kim Jong-un, black market foreign trade has boomed in North Korea. The border security agents, no longer as controlled by Kim Jong-un and no longer as allegiant or ideologically similar to Kim, are allowing bribes to transport goods like foreign movies over the border.
Granted, it is mainly the elite, those who benefit from the illegitimate Kim regime, in Pyongyang who are able to obtain these foreign goods. The rest of North Korea mainly receives only minimal salaries and the rest of their compensation through government handouts of grain, medical care, and other necessary social services.
These elites will have little incentive to overthrow the North Korean regime; regime change would entail instability for years if not decades and given the huge levels of economic inequality in North Korea, the stage would be set for yet another Communist revolution. And even if North Koreans replaced North the Communist regime with democracy, their interests still lie in the current North Korean state model.
In all major social revolutions in history, it has been the middle and lower classes that have orchestrated revolt; they are the ones for whom the status quo is not the most viable option. How can the agrarian North Koreans with limited to no capital and no knowledge that an outside world even exists gain access to these materials? This is where the international community comes in.
The United States and South Korea can collaborate to maintain a steady supply of black market literature, movies, and graphics into North Korea directly instead of desperately relying on air drop campaigns. Seoul ideally should re-adopt a measure such as the Sunshine Policy granting North Koreans at the border temporary amnesty to enter the South Korean side of the border where such pro-democracy works will be free of cost. Such a policy will ensure that not just the rich with connections can gain access to information on the outside world but all North Koreans with such will and knowledge that an outside world exists, particularly those near the border, can be enlightened.
North Korea’s primary method of stability over its people has been propaganda and the best way to fight this propaganda is with more propaganda- only this time pro-Western propaganda in the hopes of instigating a revolt against Kim Jong-un.