While there is plenty that we don’t know about the hermit kingdom, there is plenty we do. We know that they run several concentration and reeducation camps. We know this because people have escaped from them. We know because we can see them on satellite footage.
We know that North Korea’s economy is experiencing a surge both from black markets and legitimate markets. We know this because of defectors, tourists, and regular visitors (weird as it may sound there are people who visit regularly, mainly businessmen, non-profits, and diplomatic staff), who report that there are more cars on the street, that new buildings are being constructed all over the country, that real markets are sprouting all over the country with either tacit allowance by or express protection of the Party.
We know that information about the rest of the world is leaking in to North Korea. We know this because people who have visited the country recently report that TV’s and DVD’s are everywhere. And even if there wasn’t evidence to suggest that up to 92% of the country watches illegal foreign media, the history of communist countries demonstrates the futility of banning hollywood and rock and roll.
We know a lot. Thanks to the brave defectors. Thanks to the journalists and non-profits and think tanks across the world who put the pieces together and tell us about it.