The recent news that North Korea has banned use of WiFi networks and Satellite Internet for foreigners brings that nations dilemma once again into clear focus. It needs to develop digital networks and use the internet if it is to have any hope of economic development. However, by doing so in this age of ever smaller, more powerful and cheaper internet-capable digital devices, it loses the tight control over information that the leadership covets.
As reported by the North Korea Tech website on September 9,"North Korea has banned the use of satellite Internet connections and WiFi networks by foreign embassies and international organizations unless they get government approval."
The reason for this ban? Last month The Diplomat reported that housing prices had skyrocketed in a residential area of Pyongyang where the foreign embassies are located as North Koreans were scrambling to move to that area, expecting to use the embassies’ Wi-Fi. The article further noted the following. "For example, after a Middle Eastern embassy installed a strong router, college students in Pyongyang began walking around the embassy in order to use the Internet with their mobile phones. It’s known that North Korea removes all the programs related to usage of the Internet, such as Internet explorer, when selling mobile phones to its people."
Although anecdotal, this adds to a growing body of evidence that Johann Galtung's conception of how Korea might be reunified has merit. Galtung argues that unification only necessitates the free flow of people, goods and services, and information and ideas between the two Korean states, not the dissolution of ROK and DPRK into a single Korean state. This was discussed in an earlier post after his 2008 lecture at a university in Busan.