A Change Of Leadership; A Change Of Direction
Following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il the world is watching the situation closely. Both for political and social reasons, and from a commercial point of view. Specifically, social media marketers are wondering if the nation will now open its digital borders to investors.
North Korea has been very heavy-handed when it comes to controlling what their citizens see, hear and experience, including the ability to access the global Internet and use social media. If this changes, if social media becomes more accessible to people, it stands to reason that an entirely new market will be created.
At this point North Korea is a poor nation. There is not much, if any, disposable income available for commercial purposes, but this could change quickly if the people are allowed to prosper; if capitalism, or some form of capitalism, is allowed to flourish there. Even if the nation still keeps tight control on its population (a situation similar to what is happening in China which allows some freedoms) it is possible their grip might slightly loosen, allowing at least some access to social media. We have seen what social media has wrought in the Middle East this past summer. Nations such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and even Syria, have experienced popular revolutions, most often resulting in a near complete regime change.
A similar situation in North Korea would completely change the nature of the socio-economic environment in Korean peninsula, and farther out into all of East Asia. It is possible that a popular revolution, made possible through the use of social media, could further change the global marketplace by making a new market available to businesses which are now limited, if not completely prevented from exporting to North Korea.
Like everything in this world, only time will tell what, if any, change will come about in North Korea. But savvy social media marketers will be watching the situation very closely, ready to take full advantage of any openings they see.
I spoke with University of California at Los Angeles Department of Information Studies Assistant Professor Ramesh Srinivasan (@rameshmedia)about what effect, if any, social media could have on breaking down the totalitarian regime and promoting democratic change. Srinivasan is an expert on the role of social media during the Arab Spring, which quickly turned into the Arab fall and winter — a revolutionary cascade that took down regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and continues to threaten others.
“North Korea is one of the unique countries in the world because virtually every computer or technology that could be used for some social media application is regulated by the government,” said Srinivasan. This is unlike China, which allows its citizens access to technology but approaches media censorship at the Internet protocol level.
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