Thursday, September 12, 2013

Satellites and Prison Camps

From 1929 to 1953 more than 14 million people were imprisoned in the gulags of Soviet Russia. Today North Korea continues the tradition of sending anyone who speaks out against the regime to forced labor camps. North Korean labor camps are legendary in their cruelty and complete destituteness; thus many a nation has thought about intervening.  

Unfortunately one of the main constraints of any entity that attempts to be a peacekeeping force is the consistent lack of information available. Without a reliable source of information sound policy cannot be formulated and instead the developed word simply watches. New satellite technology has the ability to allow us to accurately discern what the situation is and then how to approach it. It also has an impact on the country that is being spied on. Countries now understand that technology has made large scale projects difficult to hide and they have accordingly taken steps to protect their interests.

For example the article writes about how the North Koreans have slowly phased out some of their prison camps. While this could be that the country is becoming more free more likely it means that they have taken their unethical activities even further underground. Therein lies the double-edged sword of technology. On one hand we are able to witness and prevent more atrocities around the world. On the other hand tyrannical states often utilize technology just as well as us and are willing to take it past its ethical limits.

We do not know why North Korea is shutting down their prisons but we do know that these advancements in technology have given both sides advantages. How we deal with these new developments is simply our next test.

1 comment:

  1. Neil, as Adam Johnson told us in his talk, there is so much we don't know about North Korea, mostly because they are entangled in a web of lies about themselves. I think that what makes his book so successful - we think we get a window inside. But, as he admitted, he doesn't know any more about NK than any curious person because NK doesn't reveal any truths about itself. The only thing we get is what they want us to see. So even technology like the Internet, which is supposed to have an eye everywhere, can't reveal a truth about this country.