Your Old USB Flash Drive Could Help Fight North Korea's Kim Jong Un

Human rights groups are smuggling thumb drives with movies, TV shows and information into North Korea.

02/10/2016 05:31 am ET
  • Ed Mazza Overnight Editor, The Huffington Post

If you've ever wanted to take part in an international smuggling operation -- for a good cause -- here's your chance. 

A human rights group is looking for old USB thumb drives that will be filled with western and South Korean movies and TV shows, and smuggled into North Korea.

The idea behind "Flash Drives for Freedom," which was launched by Human Rights Foundation and Forum 280, is to bypass Pyongyang's state-run media and give North Koreans a glimpse of what the rest of the world has to offer. 

"In the world’s most closed society, flash drives are valuable tools of education and discovery," the initiative's website said. "In a society without Internet, with total government censorship and with no independent media, North Koreans rely on these little pieces of plastic. Filled with films, books and explainers, they are windows to the outside world."

While few North Koreans have computers, many have video players and smartphones that can read USB files, WIRED reported.

"This is a viable technology that works there, that North Koreans have decided is a way to reach people," Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer for Human Rights Foundation, told the magazine. "Each one has the potential to literally change someone’s life."

The "Flash Drives for Freedom" website said the content on the flash drives "ranges from South Korean soap operas to Hollywood films to Korean-language versions of Wikipedia to interviews with North Korean defectors."

In theory, at least, the drives could even include videos such as this one, which was reportedly driving Kim nuts last year:

Other popular content includes films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sylvester Stallone as well as the "Hunger Games" movies and the TV shows "Desperate Housewives" and "Spartacus," the BBC said.

Gladstein was also behind last year's headline-making operation in which some 10,000 copies of "The Interview" were sent into North Korea by balloon. The film, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, is a comedy about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The regime declared the movie an "act of war" and launched a war of words with the U.S. government over the 2014 Sony hack.

Some 3,000 to 5,000 USB drives get smuggled into North Korea every year by organizations such as North Korean Strategy Center, North Korean Intellectual Solidarity and Fighters for a Free North Korea, usually by bribing border officials, WIRED said. With the help of donated drives, Human Rights Foundation and Forum 280 hope to sneak in up to 2,000 drives per month. 

The initiative is called Flash Drives for Freedom. If you have an unused drive, you can mail it to: Flash Drives for Freedom, c/o appbackr inc., 2251 Yale Street Palo Alto, CA 94306. 

 

(h/t Nextdraft)

 

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