Exploring a classic tale of propaganda gone wrong is the flash point for a project aimed at providing North Koreans with a look at the world beyond their border.
The initiative started when students at Brookes Westshore School began studying Animal Farm, the acclaimed book by George Orwell published in 1917 that reflected on events that led up to the Russian Revolution and into the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union.
The book’s examination, part of the curriculum for middle years students in the International baccalaureate program, is to empower students to make connections with the real world, said Bradley Myrholm, an English teacher at the Colwood-based school.“I had students look at fake news to get a better understanding of how it works.” Studies included discussion of excerpts from the book, Escape From Camp 14, by Blaine Harden, one of the few people born in one of North Korea’s notorious political prisons to manage to escape and survive.
“His account of the horrific conditions inspired the students,” Myrholm said. “We learned about the education process and how propaganda works in that country works. That led to five individuals in my class getting involved in Flash Drives For Freedom.”
Those students organized a fundraising project to collect new, old and used USB drives and cash for Flash Drives For Freedom.
The drives are loaded with data collected from e-books, news sources, the internet and television that is smuggled into North Korea to counter the intense indoctrination, isolation and propaganda that is the norm for people in that country, explained Divya Rajpal, one of the students spearheading the project.
“People there have been completely cut off from the outside world and led to believe the rest of the world is awful. They have been brainwashed and taught to respect their leader, Kim Jong-Un as a god and not question any of his lies,”Rajpal added.
People charged with wavering from the party line, real or perceived, are prosecuted and sent to work camps or executed, noted Thaiss Petit, another student organizing the project. “They will go after three generations of a family. There’s also guilt by association for even just knowing someone who broke the rules. It really opened our eyes to what the conditions are like there. North Korea is in the news, but people don’t fully understand what a horrible dictatorship it is. The rest of the world only sees what (North Korea) wants us to see.”
Anyone who would like to donate cash or new, old or used USB drives can drop them off at Brookes Westshore at 1939 Sooke Rd. between 1 and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday until Feb. 15.