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As a North Korean defector,
I was overwhelmed with emotion
as I walked through a gap in the Berlin Wall.
This ugly structure was a massive barrier to freedom
and a painful symbol of Germany's long division.
During that time,
millions of East Germans were plunged into the darkness
as their leaders tried to keep them from outside information.
But it didn't last.
Despite their physical division,
the German people had two powerful weapons
that could penetrate even the toughest barriers:
technology and information.
During that time,
to overcome propaganda and break the information blockade in the East,
West Germany used the power of TV and radio technology
to broadcast information to their East German brothers and sisters,
to help open their minds and change the country from within.
So, at that time, almost everybody in the East could receive these signals
except for a few isolated areas.
These places have become known as "The Valley of the Clueless."
Tragically, North Korea is still basically one big Valley of the Clueless,
as the Kim family of dictators have kept the country brainwashed
for almost 70 years.
And the unlucky people living outside the border regions, or the capital,
have little choice but to watch only the government propaganda TV channel
so they are essentially cut off from the outside world.
Growing up in this environment, I was so brainwashed
I even believed the leader was a God who didn't even go to the bathroom,
and my country was a paradise.
But I slowly began to see the truth
when I witnessed poverty, starvation, and death
during the famine in the mid 1990s.
I can never forget the shock and heartbreak I felt
when I witnessed a dying mother holding her starving child on the street,
and my friend's humiliation that she couldn't even offer me lunch
because her whole family had nothing to eat.
Yet, I was one of the lucky ones in North Korea
since I never suffered hunger, and more importantly,
I didn't grow up in the Valley of the Clueless.
I grew up on a hill of knowledge
since my home was just across the border with China,
and we could pick up several Chinese TV channels.
It's illegal in North Korea.
So I covered the windows
with extra thick blankets to prevent light, late at night,
and I watched secretly in my little world.
The Chinese TV completely transformed my life.
It not only told me my government propaganda,
that North Korea is the best on the planet,
I also developed a strong desire
to explore the outside world.
Thanks to the power of technology to spread information,
I dared to follow my dreams
across the border, when I was just 17.
Numerous other defectors also have told that they defected in search of freedom,
rather than hunger or economic opportunities.
But because many North Koreans watched the foreign media,
since even a meaningless drama can raise thoughts about the propaganda.
For example, North Koreans are so brainwashed to believe
that South Korea is a terribly poor country.
So when North Koreans see the South Korean dramas
they actually believe
that South Korean movie makers have to gather
all the cars in the country at once to film a busy street scene.
So when North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea
they were completely shocked
when they [saw] the crowded streets full with cars.
Defectors like my mom, who lived in the darkness
of a dictatorship country for almost 60 years,
now reveal how North Koreans are shockingly deprived
of the everyday technology that we take for granted.
When my mom first arrived in South Korea,
she was even afraid to step on the escalator.
And when she saw her first ATM,
she thought there was a man sitting inside.
And she said, "Oh, that little, poor man working there all day!"
"And without a window!"
I was completely speechless.
Maybe it could be hard to understand for an outsider,
but living in North Korea is like living in a completely different universe.
As technology has developed over time,
the North Korean regime has been forced to play an endless cat and mouse game
with the people to prevent outside information.
I first witnessed this growing up in the 1990s,
as people began to use VCRs to watch foreign contents.
This threatened the regime's official propaganda,
so the authorities had a clever idea.
They would suddenly cut the power in certain areas,
and rush into the homes to check
which video tapes were stuck in the video players.
So people who had illegal foreign contents were arrested
and could be severely punished.
But the external information continued to spread
as defectors and other people have sent USBs and dropped DVDs
into North Korea,
as well as a launching helium balloons
filled with supplies and GPS.
The fetter over technology, over information, continues
under the current dictator Kim Jong-un,
who has strongly cracked down on external contents.
Even recently, the leaders have ordered to search house to house,
searches to destroy banned music like K-Pop that can threaten the regime,
but the authorities cannot stop the outside information.
The potential for technology and information
to transform North Korea is exponential.
New technologies offer amazing opportunities to reach
North Korea's Valley of the Clueless.
For example, mini-drones can take videos,
and also deliver supplies.
Also we should send smartphones to North Korea to show people
how people in the modern world
can communicate and gather information together.
So the opportunities are endless.
Due to new technology, the regime, in the end, will be forced to change.
So I am filled with great hope for my country's future.
And especially standing here today in the formerly divided land
that has not only unified but prospered.
Even the area once called The Valley of the Clueless
in East Germany
now is called Silicon Saxony,
one of Europe's key technology centers.
So I firmly believe that my country can follow in Germany's footsteps one day
as information can penetrate even the toughest borders.
But North Korean people need help to awaken them and inspire them to change,
to bring positive change.
So we must continue to use technology to open their eyes.
As technology and information continue to spread,
I know my country will be transformed
from the Valley of the Clueless to the Hills of Knowledge.
(German) Thank you.
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【TEDx】Awakening North Korea's valley of the clueless | Hyeonseo Lee | TEDxBerlin

2804 Folder Collection
文化學生A4244454 published on May 23, 2017
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