As individuals of the UK we are very much free to live as we please, disregarding the restraints imposed by the law in order to safeguard the welfare of others. Although the amount of personal liberty we have can be debated and disputed, the point is that we can, in effect, go where we want and talk as we wish and we can do this without the fear of being condemned to death. The same cannot be said for the population of North Korea. Recent documentaries such as Vice’s Inside North Korea and BBC’s North Korea Undercover, have shown just how futile the circumstances are for the inhabitants of North Korea.
The present leader Kim Jong-un, son of Kim Jong-Il and grandson of Kim Il-sung, continues to govern in the form of a far right Nazi dictatorship, implementing a totalitarianism cult of personality. It is an immensely controlled society, with 9.4million of the population dressed in military uniform and strapped with arms, making it the largest military in the world. There are similar marches and parades to those performed in the reign of Hitler that take place frequently and the soldiers enact hand gestures representative of shaking their fists at the world. The DMZ border across the Korean Peninsula that divides the North and South is the most militarized zone on earth. North Korea keeps about 2million troops here alongside tanks, mines, missiles and other weapons, enforcing just how dangerous it is.
The people of North Korea are indoctrinated to believe that they are the superior race and are constantly bombarded with excessive propaganda that blasts from speakers. There are no advertisements for anything; the only promotions that can be found are the statues and pictures of current and past Kim leaders that have been erected around the country. Their televisions and newspapers tell them that the horrific poverty-stricken state they live in is caused by America. That they are being targeted and are under threat, so their state has been forced to prepare for warfare. Their nuclear tests in February are evidence of this belief and even caused ally China to vote against North Korea in the UN. Space shots of North Korea emphasize it’s disconnection with the world. Ironically it becomes highlighted due to its lack of light, as the state is continuously struggling to sustain sufficient power.
The state is surrounded by borders of barbed wire making its people more like prisoners. They can’t travel to the Capital without permission and the 1 million mobile phones that have been allowed have blocking systems in order to limit outside contact and web access. Kim Jong-un banned phones and made people abstain from pleasurable activities for 100 days in January when he came into power in order to show respect whilst the nation mourned its former leader. Kim Chol, ex-vice minister of the army, was executed for drinking alcohol during this period and anyone who did not mourn satisfactorily, for example not showing extreme distress, were sent to labour camps.
Concentration camps in North Korea are on the rise. Yodok concentration camp is just one of many. Ms. Kim Young Soon is a survivor who has spoken about her experience in the camp. She was imprisoned along with her family because of her knowledge about Kim Jong-Il’s relationship with a once married woman which would have been perceived as an enormous disgrace. She was only told ten years after her release what she had been imprisoned for. During her time in the prison her entire family died. She was witness to public executions of prisoners who had attempted to escape, and was forced to eat anything she could get her hands on, such as rats. Prisoners would also inform on one another in order to get food or less beatings. It remains to be said that human rights are completely ignored as genocide remains a reality for the people of North Korea.
By Melissa McDonald