Hacking “Best Korea” With Satellite

Years ago, we marveled at the sophisticated simplicity of the Luneberg Lens and how cool it was to use technology developed 70 years ago to receive multiple satellite TV feeds. Something you couldn’t imagine in 1944. Now those principles are being used to win a “hackathon” in San Francisco.

ARS Technica gave a comprehensive summary…

 

The team’s idea, which hasn’t moved beyond the concept phase, was deceptively simple: import a bunch of satellite receivers into North Korea so that people can simply receive TV stations from SkyLife, a major South Korean broadcaster.

At present, SkyLife’s satellite footprint easily extends into North Korea, and it includes many Korean-language stations including KBS and SBS, two of the largest. It also includes some English-language programming, including BBC, Eurosport, and Animal Planet, among others. The team realizes that getting a little more independent information into North Korea won’t create an overnight revolution in the country. But under this plan, the team claims, North Koreans could start to learn more about how their South Korea cousins live via news, sports, entertainment, and more.

“I think our initial hope is to get North Korea to the state of Iran, where information is flowing in,” one of the team members, Matthew Lee (a pseudonym), told Ars. “Right now North Korea is a hermit state. If we can at least get to a state where you can use Twitter, then people will understand what’s going on outside. That’s the first catalyst and then they can use our device to create a shadow network and with that, they can bring about a change within their own social context.”

Specifically, the team wants to use new developments in Luneburg lens research that would allow for a traditional curved, bulk satellite dish receiver to be manufactured into something flat. They hope this could eventually be mounted (and camouflaged) onto walls and windows of North Korean homes. One big problem is that such antennas have yet to be manufactured on a widespread basis.

The trio won a round-trip ticket to Seoul, South Korea paid for by HRF, where they will meet with North Korean defector groups and other organizations. HRF says that it will work to secure funding to fully realize this project.

Kim Heung-kwang (second from left) is a former North Korean cyberwarfare professor and a judge at the HRF event. Justice Suh (third from right) was one of the winning team members.


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