RYAN LIPPERT WRITES – The North Korean government may slowly be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of its people.

How is this happening in a country where the government uses propaganda, political repression, and secrecy to control public opinion? It appears that many North Korean citizens have been convinced that life is better outside of the Hermit Kingdom by illegally obtaining a variety of South Korean consumer goods such as cars, films, clothes, and appliances.

North Koreans have learned that they can make a lot of money by selling anything made in South Korea. The catch? They need to get rid of any evidence that it came from the South while convincing their customers of its authenticity.

Even government propaganda may be conveying the wrong messages to its people. For example, after watching a film that condemned South Korea’s nightclubs, a former North Korean soldier realized that things may be better in the South because they can afford to provide electricity to power lights, while the North is pitch black at night.

The Chosun Ilbo polled people who defected from the North, finding that a little over half of them think that South Korean citizens enjoy a higher quality of life than their northern neighbors. But, perhaps surprisingly, some still believe that the South has a bigger poverty problem than the North.

Overall, it looks like North Korea needs to think of a new way to use its media to shape public opinion if it wants to maintain control of its citizens. But, this may be yet another example of the futility of thought control.