November 10, 2008

Korea: Kim Jong-Il & his Hermit Kingdom

by Althea Avice de Guzman

In North Korea, foreign influence is prohibited. Media are barred. There are few televisions sets and limited uses for radio and the internet. Outside influence is so minimal, it seems as though the country alone exists in the world. And incredulously enough, the people's beliefs reflect just that: North Korea is the Garden of Eden while everyone else must be living contemptuously.
It is an inconceivable concept for Americans. The images we receive from that part of the world are emaciated children picking at the muddied grounds for any scrap of food. North Korean defectors are returned from China only to be executed. Human rights organizations have rallied for the United States' government to have an active role in intervening when such clear violations are being made to the human rights of North Korean citizens.

This is where American compassion can be misconstrued for arrogance because the real problem is that North Koreans do not believe there is anything wrong with their way of life. Why? Because it is the only thing they have ever known. Yes, they may acknowledge that difficulty exists, especially with the famine that continues even today, but it must be endured for the ultimate fate of the country.

If Freddy Krueger ever wore Mao's suit, it would be Kim Jong-Il, stalking the nightmare that George Orwell dreamt in his novel, 1984. Yet while Orwell dreamed of a government's pervasive control by totalitarianism, Kim Jong-Il takes it even further by establishing a theocracy, where he is God. The North Korean Constitution is essentially the Bible that is taught upon entering school, where its principles must be reflected in each class, from Russian to biology. As detestable as it may be, one must be in awe of such a perfect system of indoctrination.

In Orwell's novel, the government controls every aspect of a citizen's life, and it is no different in the reality that Kim has created: every citizen is his disciple, a fate borne from the womb. It is no surprise that for the past sixty years, there has been no documented sedition, no protests, coups or strikes. After all, a citizen is but a common believer who cannot possibly rebel against God.

All of this is possible because outside influence is not allowed and what modest media that exists in the country are controlled by the government as a means of intensifying indoctrination with propaganda reflecting the principles of Kim's Bible. Only 55 out of every 1,000 citizens even own a TV set and television only shows programs that the government approves of having patriotic principles, glorifying the leader. Reports are saturated with Kim's actions and ideals and thus do not have any room to report hardship. Even if any foreign media outlet could be accessed, there is a severe punishment for paying it any mind. Also, it seems that if ever the internet had a boundary, it would be found in North Korea. Such measures to limit media outlets like television, radio and the internet are easy because the country cannot afford any development in technology that even compares to the standard of living found in the West. All the money is invested in Kim's military ambitions including nuclear advancement.

Hence, the first step to be taken in aiding North Koreans is not through direct negotiations with the leader. There is some merit in the rest of the world criticizing America for its interference in other nations' sovereignty over their citizens. We may have good intentions, but what we need to realize is that the rest of the world has not been as privileged to know a better fate. The media saturation in this country allows for the proliferation of ideals in liberty and individualism; other countries are not so lucky.

So, where do we begin? Well, reading George Orwell doesn't hurt.

(The photo shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il meeting with troops; the photo was released by the North Korean Central News Agency in August, 2008, and is in the public domain.)

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