There’s a lot of reasons that this is the most durable Stalinist regime in the world and why they’re still there. But change is happening and it’s coming through technology. Park Sang-Ha is floating balloons with DVDs into North Korea. Ken Cho Wan is smuggling in thumb drives and DVDs. So North Korea is kind of getting flooded with movies, especially soap operas from South Korea, which are popular with everyone (go watch some!). Things like South Korean Wikipedia: imagine the knowledge of a nation made by its people, editable by its people, and it’s not an official version.
One of the things I discovered (and I say this because we’re in a room full of book people) in writing my book, was that there isn’t literature in North Korea. The Japanese begin their occupation in 1910, and in the colonial period not only were you not allowed to have Korean names (eventually everyone had to be renamed with Japanese names), not only did they take 800,000 slaves to the mainland to run the factories (and comfort women and all those things), but the Daegeum became illegal, the taegum flute became illegal, and you had to read Japanese literature. And then there was no literature! They lost connection with their own stories. A century ago.