Yongusil 4: Lifting the Fog, British Embassy Seoul, September 16
The Wonderful World of Daily NK | Daily NK is a rare and important entity in the field of North Korean Studies: an online periodical taking as its remit the reporting of news from inside North Korea. Not news from formal sources that the Kim Jong-un regime wants to enter the public domain, such as Korean Central News Agency, the state news agency , Rodong Sinmun, the daily publication of the Korean Workers’ Party itself , or even the Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang.
Instead, Daily NK extracts news from underneath the information blockade erected by the government. As such, it is at the very forefront of tying together the frayed ends of the cycle of information on North Korea: whereas the North Korean government has long known the warts and all facts about the governments and societies of the free world, the international community of nations previously only knew what the North Korean government wanted them to know. Daily NK has made that situation impossible to sustain.
Down the years, Daily NK has broken a vast number of stories from inside North Korea, defying the regime while redefining our popular understanding of the country itself. There has been grainy video of a public execution, news of a flash currency reform just moments after it took place, facts about the closure of a political prison camp, and, most recently, details of revisions to the Ten Principles, the foundational document by which the nation’s government seeks absolutist control over the ideological framework of its people.
In other words, as The Atlantic commented in 2011, “Hardly a story about North Korea appears in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or The Washington Post that hasn’t either originated in, or been confirmed by, outlets like the Daily NK.” Or, as The New York Times said in 2010, “Thanks to The Daily NK and the other services, it is also possible now for outsiders to read a dizzying array of ‘heard-in-North Korea’ reports, many on topics off limits for public discussion in the North.”
Welcome to the Digital Revolution | But Daily NK and organizations like it are not the only revolutionary development to have occurred in the field of “digital North Korea research.” There are many things that Daily NK doesn’t have the resources to do, and one of the biggest of these is to uncover, through the diligent exploration and cross-referencing of satellite imagery with open source video and print data sets, the extent of change and regression in the country.
Curtis Melvin is at the forefront of this work. The founder of the website North Korea Economy Watch and co-creator of the DPRK Digital Atlas, Melvin, currently a researcher with the US-Korea Institute at SAIS (Johns Hopkins University), has been plotting out the economic and social structures of the North Korean state since the turn of the century. In the process he has uncovered a multitude of stories that have redefined our understanding of socio-economic life in North Korea, including extensions to political prison camps, expanding and contracting markets, and the locations of Kim family iconography both new and old. If the North Korean government knows anything, it is surely this: if it can be seen from above, Melvin knows where it is.
But at the same time, there is the need for experts who can explain these changes with a mix of pith and scholarly accuracy. One of the most prominent academics in this role has long been Professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in Seoul. An erudite scholar, the author of “The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia” is a go-to for English and Russian-speaking communities seeking a better understanding of North Korean affairs.
It is for these reasons that Sino-NK Co-editor (and Daily NK Manager of International Affairs) Christopher Green and Director of Development Gregory Pence have teamed up with Melvin, Lankov, and the British Embassy in Seoul to showcase the way that the global digital humanities revolution is bringing down the wall of fog built by the North Korean government, making their secrets visible for the first time.
The event, which takes place on Monday, September 16, comes at the culmination of Daily NK’s ongoing Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which is taking donations until Friday, September 13.
British Embassy Seoul, Sejong-daero 19-gil 24, Jung-gu, Seoul, 100-120.
Subway Line 2: City Hall Station, or Line 5: Gwanghwamun Station
The event begins at 19:00. The official portion of the schedule runs until approximately 20:30, after which there will be an opportunity to have a drink and talk with the speakers in the Embassy’s newly refurbished bar. There is a 10,000 won suggested donation.
For Embassy security reasons, an RSVP list must be submitted 24 hours before the event takes place. Therefore, please RSVP with the names of attendees to development[at]dailynk[dot]com. Maximum attendance 100.
Also, please note that identification and bag searches will be required upon entry to the Embassy compound, so please bring passport or ARC, and allow sufficient time for these checks to take place prior to the start of the event.