North Korea's Hidden Revolution How the Information Underground Is Transforming a Closed Society Jieun Baek

Publication date:
07 Feb 2017
Yale University Press
312 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
9 b-w illus.

The story of North Korea's information underground and how it inspires people to seek better lives beyond their country’s borders

One of the least understood countries in the world, North Korea has long been known for its repressive regime. Yet it is far from being an impenetrable black box. Media flows covertly into the country, and fault lines are appearing in the government’s sealed informational borders. Drawing on deeply personal interviews with North Korean defectors from all walks of life, ranging from propaganda artists to diplomats, Jieun Baek tells the story of North Korea’s information underground—the network of citizens who take extraordinary risks by circulating illicit content such as foreign films, television shows, soap operas, books, and encyclopedias. By fostering an awareness of life outside North Korea and enhancing cultural knowledge, the materials these citizens disseminate are affecting the social and political consciousness of a people, as well as their everyday lives.

Jieun Baek is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at the University of Oxford. Previously, she was a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and worked at Google, where, among other roles, she served as Google Ideas’ North Korea expert. Baek received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Public Policy from Harvard. Visit her at

“[A] timely and cogent book.”—Stephen J. Gallas, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“A fine primer on the country, based on extensive interviews with defectors."—Min Jin Lee, TLS

‘’This excellent book shines a light on the lives and feelings of ordinary citizens of North Korea. It lifts a veil that is imposed by the isolation and controls of the current regime. It reveals people thirsting for access to information and motivated by unquenchable  human curiosity and rationality. These are great allies for liberty. At such a worrying time for peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, these human qualities afford us a measure of reassurance and encouragement."--The Honourable Michael Kirby, former chair of the United Nations commission of inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea  and Justice of the High Court of Australia