Monday, July 21, 2014

Silicon Valley to host North Korea 'hackathon'

Human Rights Foundation

On August 2 and 3 in San Francisco, HRF will host Hack North Korea, a gathering of Bay Area technologists, investors, engineers, designers, and prominent North Korean defectors and refugees, who will come together to share ideas and brainstorm better ways of getting information inside the world's most closed society. Read more about the event in today's article from The Guardian. For inquiries, please contact


Silicon Valley to host North Korea 'hackathon'

Two-day event organised by Human Rights Foundation aims to find new ways to spread information inside North Korea. North Korea Techreports

Martyn Williams for North Korea Tech | July 21, 2014
Guardian photo 1
A computer class in Pyongyang in 2005. Internet access is extremely restricted in North Korea. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

A two-day “hackathon” plans to harness the technical prowess of Silicon Valley to come up with new ways to get information safely into North Korea.

Hack North Korea, scheduled to take place in San Francisco on 2-3 August, is organised by the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based group that focuses on closed societies.

Several prominent North Korean defectors will attend the event including pro-democracy activist Park Sang-hak, former North Korean child prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, media personality Park Yeon-mi andKim Heung-Kwang, a former professor in computer studies in North Korea. They are expected to speak on the methods currently used to get information into the country, which include CDs and DVDs, USB sticks, shortwave radio, and leaflets dropped from balloons.

Organisers said they are not encouraging hacking in the sense ofgaining unauthorised access to data, but is instead hoping to “spark better ideas for getting information into the world’s most closed and isolated society”.
Guardian photo 2
North Korean defectors and South Korean activists release balloons carrying leaflets condemning Kim Jong-Il in 2010. Photograph: Kim Ju-sung/AP
“Participants will become familiar with the various ways that information and truth are smuggled into North Korea today, and gain an understanding of the technology landscape inside the country. Then, guided by our North Korean guests, attendees will break into teams to come up with new ways to help end the Kim dictatorship’s monopoly of information on the 25 million people living under its rule,” HRF said.

Information is strictly controlled in North Korea, which does not have a free press, and only allows internet access to an elite few.

"The one-party regime owns all domestic news outlets, attempts to regulate all communication, and rigorously limits the ability of the North Korean people to access outside information," says Freedom House, which rates North Korea as one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom.

Earlier this year, helped HRF to launch balloons carrying USB flash drives loaded with Korean-language Wikipedia as well as pro-democracy materials and DVDs with South Korean dramas, so that they could float from the launch site in Paju, in South Korea, across the border into the North.

Park Sang-hak also visited Silicon Valley with HRF, to improve GPS tracking on the balloons, so that the group can try and follow what happens to the balloons once they cross the border.

A version of this article first appeared on North Korea Tech.

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