Floating the idea: Weather balloons spread uncensored information to North Koreans

At Idealist, we love good ideas of all kinds, but especially those that turn commonly-accepted notions on their heads, get us to confront our beliefs, and (maybe) stir up a little trouble. To honor ideas brave and bold, and inspired by Sydney, Australia’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, we welcome you to Idealist in Action’s Dangerous Ideas Week.

At Idealist, we envision a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives, and we support everyone’s right to help others. So we were interested to learn about the Human Rights Foundation’s (HRF’s) recent effort to spread information to North Koreans living under censorship.

“These balloons are an information lifeline to ordinary North Koreans, who have no means to learn about the world beyond the lies of their government,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen in a press release.

“The international community often focuses on how little we know about life inside North Korea—but the real story is that North Koreans know little to nothing about the world we live in,” he continued. “Most are unaware that there is an alternative to repressive tyranny. We are helping to change that.”

Information: up, up, and away!
(image courtesy HRF)

The creative campaign made use of 20 large weather balloons that distributed information from the outside world directly to North Koreans. On January 15, the balloons traveled over the border between South Korea and North Korea, and carried leaflets with information about democracy, along with transistor radios, USBs loaded with the entire Korean Wikipedia, and even DVDs of South Korean soap operas.

The Human Rights Foundation worked with a group called Fighters for a Free North Korea to pull the launch together. A previous attempt was made in June last year, but was canceled at the last minute for fear of retaliation. At the time of this writing, it was unknown how many of the materials actually found their way into the hands of North Koreans.

Read more about the Human Rights Foundation’s launch here.

What other information-spreading efforts do you know about that have a dangerous side?

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