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Hackathon Aims to Spread Global Information to North Korea

North Korean soldiers bring flowers to the statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean soldiers bring flowers to the statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea. // Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

A "hackathon" held by the Human Rights Foundation will aim to bring more information inside the very high, guarded walls of North Korea. The foundation aims to aid closed societies and in the past has succeeded dropping USB drives loaded with Wikipedia into North Korea. The drives floated across the border attached to balloons

This year's hackathon, held in San Francisco on August 2-3, is more about idea hacking, rather than malicious hacking. The stated goal is to “spark better ideas for getting information into the world’s most closed and isolated society”.

The foundation explains the process for the hackathon this way: “Participants will become familiar with the various ways that information and truth are smuggled into North Korea today, and gain an understanding of the technology landscape inside the country. Then, guided by our North Korean guests, attendees will break into teams to come up with new ways to help end the Kim dictatorship’s monopoly of information on the 25 million people living under its rule."

Well-known defectors from North Korea will participate, including democracy activist Park Sang-hak, former child prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, media personality Park-Yeon-mi, and professor of computer studies in North Korea, Kim Heung-Kwang. 

Among the ideas for getting information into the country are balloon drops of leaflets, CDs, DVDs, USBs, and transmissions via shortwave radio. While they do not have a free press, North Korea does allow limited Internet access to a few people, specifically chosen higher ranking members of society. 

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