Jung Gwang-Il thought James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film, Titanic, was the most subversive thing he’d ever seen. His expertise in that regard was very limited — he spent his entire life under the Kim Regime in North Korea.
He fled Pyongyang for Seoul in 2004 and has since founded a nonprofit designed to undermine the regime’s biggest weapon in its mission to maintain power: information. Jung formed No Chain for North Korea, a non-governmental organization whose mission is to send even the tiniest packets of information into the “Hermit Kingdom.”
South Korean soap operas and American movies via USB drives in plastic bottles are his weapons of choice. He tosses them into rivers and lets them float downstream. These are considered subversive in North Korea and are illegal. The punishment for North Koreans viewing this material is usually death, but it can also land them in one of the state’s Siberian gulags.
His hope is that these drives find their way into the North Korean black market and are accessed by families and households who have USB-reading devices. An estimated 50 percent of urban North Koreans have some kind of device that can read them.
And it all started with Titanic.
He watched the film from a pirated Chinese DVD that was smuggled across the border. The love story left him mesmerized, he told the Times of London.
In North Korea, and in North Korean films, love is reserved to the party and leader,” Jung said. “Love is political because it means putting feelings for an individual before loyalty to the state.
It was this Hollywood influence that convinced him the state was lying to him about everything. After his 2004 escape, he founded No Chain for North Korea to influence his former countrymen the way he was influenced.
“We want to use information to overthrow the regime, rather than military force, because that would bring so many casualties,” he said.
Jung is a veteran of the North Korean People’s Army. He spent his compulsory 10 years of military service with an artillery unit on the North-South Korean border. He says the military doesn’t ever question the regime’s hard line on anything. Why should they? They have no information to counter it.