From a small and crowded office in a Seoul backstreet, Park In-Ho shines a light on one of the most closed and secretive nations on earth.
His Internet newspaper Daily NK is one of about a dozen South Korean organisations collecting news about North Korea, through sources inside the hardline communist state and contacts or staffers in neighbouring China.
Daily NK, one of the most active, was founded in 2004 to publicise the plight of refugees hiding out in China and to relay the voices of ordinary North Koreans inside their homeland.
"We wanted to let people here and abroad know how ordinary North Koreans live and think, a subject which has often been ignored by South Korean media," said Park, 40, the Daily NK publisher.
Daily NK provides real-time news in four languages -- Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. It has about 30 staff including five former refugees from the North, nine foreigners and three journalists based in China.
Park is a former NGO activist helping North Korean refugees in China, who face repatriation and possible severe punishment at home if caught by Beijing.
The fugitives in China are "crucial assets", he told AFP, as their relatives and friends back home are the main source of information. But he would not discuss newsgathering operations, to protect his sources.
"Our operation is risky," he said.
Daily NK staffers in China live under constant threat from Pyongyang and are also in danger of being deported by Beijing, Park said.
Inside the North, "Pyongyang regards our secret sources within its system as spies and is desperate to discover their identities", he told AFP.
Park said the North has been closely watching Daily NK and describing its staff as "traitors", since its extensive coverage of the currency revaluation in late 2009.
This backfired disastrously, wiping out savings, fuelling food shortages and sparking rare outbreaks of public unrest. Park counts the Daily NK's coverage of the episode as its greatest scoop.
Park said he began using the Internet to tell the story of ordinary North Koreans because he had no money for other outlets.
The website (www.dailynk.com) now gets about 100,000 hits a day from people including government officials, scholars and journalists, he said.
Apart from advertising revenue it relies on donations from the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit foundation sponsored by the US Congress, to fund about 30 percent of its operations.
The North's regime once exercised an iron grip on information sources, pre-tuning radios and televisions to official stations only and banning cellphones for years.
There are now more than one million registered subscribers to an officially approved mobile phone service, but activists say overseas calls are banned.
Security services try to clamp down on contraband CDs and DVDs and especially on smuggled mobile phones which connect to Chinese networks near the border.
Users reportedly limit calls to five minutes to avoid being traced. Daily NK and other groups such as Open Radio for North Korea rely on information relayed by such phones.
The campaign against external information "has not been so successful because of a growing appetite among North Korean people for news about the outside world", said Kim Ik-Hwan, secretary general of Open Radio.
"Public allegiance to the regime is getting weaker and money counts for a lot there due to corruption, which is rampant and far more serious than we think," he said.
His organisation, which has a 20-member crew including five defectors, relies on donations from non-governmental organisations and the NED to fund its daily broadcasts for five hours from 10 pm.
It also operates a website (http://english.nkradio.org).
Good Friends, set up in 2003 by a Buddhist NGO group, publishes an online newsletter with the stated aim of providing "a bridge between the North Korean people and the world".
"Unlike other groups which resort to criticism and pressure, Good Friends advocates cross-border exchanges and cooperation," said Park Sun-Song, a university professor and Good Friends board member.
Good Friends (http://goodfriends.or.kr/eng), which is funded by more than 4,000 private donors, "plays a role in improving inter-Korean relations," the professor said.
It nevertheless paints a devastating picture of cross-border hardships: deaths from starvation amid desperate food shortages, children forced to collect human faeces to fertilise fields, widespread bribery and repression and acute electricity shortages.
Park In-Ho said Daily NK seeks to change attitudes inside and outside the North. "I will continue my business until North Korea becomes a free and open society," he vowed.