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NYT: Cellphones and VCRs undermine North Korean regime

Marc Perton
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il checks his Technorati rating.

Chances are you're not going to find the latest goods from LG or Samsung in North Korea, but little-by-little, technology is bringing change to the hermit kingdom, according to The New York Times. Cellphones, though officially banned, are now commonplace in areas of the country that border China, where they can receive signals via towers on the Chinese side of the border. Prepaid calling plans — often paid for by South Korean journalists — let Northerners communicate with relatives and others in the South. The technology with the biggest impact, however, is the VCR, which has become a must-have item. Smuggled decks — ditched by Chinese upgrading to DVD players — are apparently widely available, and tapes of South Korean soap operas are the latest rage. The government has responded predictably, by railing against Southern influence and cutting off electricity without warning and then inspecting VCRs to see what tapes are stuck inside. But some experts believe the damage to the repressive regime is already done: "They are gradually learning about South Korean prosperity," Andrei Lankov, who studied in the North, told the Times. "This is a death sentence to the regime."

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