Talking With the 'Hermit Regime'| Media Liberalization: Control and Consumption of Foreign Media in North Korea, China, and East Germany

Martha Kuhnhenn, Micky Lee, Weiqi Zhang


The pervasive consumption of smuggled foreign media in North Korea means that societal changes may bring political economic changes. To analyze how drastic political and economic changes may relate to and resulted from changing media systems and cultures, we conducted a 3-country comparison between present-day North Korea, China from the late 1970s to present day, and East Germany before the reunification with West Germany. We compared government control of media ownership and content; the flow and consumption of foreign media among citizens; the sizes of the media economy and the black market in which legal and illegal media, respectively, circulates; and the adoption of nonlocal cultures in relation to citizens’ political views. Reflecting on the experiences of China and East Germany, we believe that the North Korean case is more similar to the East German case rather than to the Chinese case because the government cannot effectively control foreign media consumption and its influence on the citizens, so the country may eventually allow for some foreign media in the country.


cross-country comparison, economic and political transformation, media control, illegal media consumption, North Korean media, East German media

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