North Korea vs. China
The people of North America, Europe, and other parts of the world experience a freedom that didn’t even exist 100 years ago. That is, the freedom to access and share information and ideas around the world through unrestricted Internet access. However, there are many places in the world where such freedoms are denied. North Korea and China are two examples of such countries, but while they are similar in their restriction of Internet access, they are entirely different in how they do so.
The Chinese government does allow its people to access and use the Internet, and for the most part they can do as they please when it comes to shopping, business, and entertainment. When it comes to complete Internet freedom, however, the Chinese government draws a gray line, “Although recent and current administrations have emphasized the importance of Internet development, Chinese policymakers are also wary of the potentially crippling effects that these changes could have on the CCP’s ability to contain sensitive or threatening information” (OpenNet ,2012, 272). Anything suspected of potentially harming the Chinese government and their control can be filtered from view and those accessing them can be monitored, “Some estimates say that the government employs roughly 100,000 people, hired both by the state and private companies, to constantly monitor China’s Internet” (Xu, 2015). The government in China knows that their economy relies on the Internet for fulfilling online shopping orders and other commerce related activities, and because of this they keep the Internet easily accessible to their people. Their censorship on the Internet is, “intent on maintaining social order and stability in a context of rapid development and social transformation” (OpenNet, 2012, 288). China, who interacts closely with western nations where Internet freedom is important, has faced opposition to their Internet policies from many nations and even companies, “In March 2010, after a series of strained negotiations between Google and Chinese authorities, the company finally made good on its threat to stop filtering content (OpenNet, 2012, 275). It does not appear that China will back down from their stance on Internet censorship, however, as they regard it as an important national security measure even though it really only “allows authorities to crack down on news stories by claiming that they expose state secrets and endanger the country” (Xu, 2015). Perhaps more companies like Google and maybe even western nations will put increasing pressure on China to allow their citizens unfiltered Internet access, “The regime has over time come to the conclusion that shutting out the Internet leads to negative long-term economic consequences such as losing international business opportunities and continuing technological backwardness” (Chen, Ko, and Lee, 2010, 653). While the fight in China for Internet freedom continues, a country to China’s north cuts their citizens access down to virtually nothing.
Unless you are of the uppermost elite class in North Korea, you have never accessed the Internet and likely have no real concept of what it is. This is because the North Korean government places extremely heavy restrictions on the content their citizens can see, not to mention the widespread poverty prevent all but the richest North Koreans from accessing a computer, “For most North Koreans, access to online content is exceedingly rare and limited to the few dozen Web sites that comprise Kwangmyong, the nation’s domestic intranet” (OpenNet, 2007, 2). While China is far from the perfect example of Internet freedoms, China’s “tactics often entail strict media controls using monitoring systems and firewalls, shuttering publications or websites, and jailing dissident journalists, bloggers, and activists” (Xu, 2015), they are much better than the North Koreans, who rarely allow their people even the tiniest glimpse of the online world. The government goes to very extreme lengths to ensure its citizens only see what they want them to see, “Personal radios and televisions must be modified to receive only government stations and registered with the authorities. A nationwide ban on mobile phones has also been in place since May 2004” (OpenNet, 2007, 2). The stark contrast in levels of Internet freedom in North Korea is astounding, while the normal citizens can hardly afford to eat let alone browse the web, “a select few, including members of Kim Jung Il’s inner circle, enjoy unfiltered Internet access via satellite link to servers in Germany” (OpenNet, 2007, 1). However, North Korea has been making attempts to bring their country into the Internet age, but these attempts are not without their flaws. It is clear that any North Korean public internet access will come with strict censorship and filtering, they “will allow greater access to the Internet only after it makes sure that all the technical problems of controlling and filtering information over the cyberspace have been adequately resolved” (Chen, Ko, and Lee, 2010, 653). Hopefully, North Koreans will be able to see the Internet as we do in the future, though “It can be predicted that the regime will continue to implement tight Internet regulations even after it allows wider access to the Internet” (Chen, Ko, and Lee, 2010, 666). In the modern age access to the Internet has become a right just like the rights of free speech, press, and religion, and countries like China and North Korea are denying their citizens this right in some manner. Maybe one day the world will see complete and uncensored access to the Internet for everyone.
Chen, Cheng, Kyungmin Ko, and Ji-Yong Lee. “North Korea’s Internet Strategy and Its Political Implications.” The Pacific Review 23.5 (2010): 649-70. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Sept. 2016.
“China.” OpenNet Initiative. N.p., 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.
“North Korea.” OpenNet Initiative. N.p., 10 May 2007. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.
Xu, Beina. “Media Censorship in China.” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.