NORTH KOREA: Black Markets and Brighter Futures

RYAN LIPPERT WRITES – Like millennials elsewhere, North Korea’s are unhappy with their circumstances and doing what they must to improve their quality of life. In spite of the government’s restrictions on media, North Korean millennials are still able to consume foreign media, which has played a significant role in the country’s millennial revolution.

In the 1990s, North Koreans faced not only famine, but also a government that could no longer provide them with food. This led many citizens to set up black markets so they could barter with others for survival. As these markets spread over the years, the range of products they offer has expanded to include foreign media.

Although foreign media is illegal in North Korea, it continues to flow into the country, where it allows citizens to learn about the rest of the world from sources outside of the government-controlled media. Because North Korea’s millennials grew up in this environment, many have refused to drink the Kool-Aid, preferring the opportunities presented by free markets and the wealth of information offered by the outside world’s media to the government’s propaganda and failed safety nets.

Although it does not look like this generation of North Koreans is likely to rise up against their government, their experiences with free markets and foreign media have had a substantial influence on their worldview. They cannot forget what they have learned and the spread of this knowledge seems inevitable.

As foreign media continues to teach the black market generation about the outside world, many will become more willing to risk their lives to escape the constraints of the Hermit Kingdom for the outside world where they can have a sense of control over their lives.

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