Tuesday, May 26, 2009

North Korea: Kim Jong-Il's plaything

Empty streets betray empty stomachs. This is ruler Kim Jong-Il's plaything - the nation officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). More commonly known as North Korea, the DPRK is neither democratic nor a republic, but a hostage under Jong-Il's dictatorial boot. It is a wasteland of poverty and stunted development.

(NB: North Korea does in fact hold elections, but only a single state-picked candidate is run for each office, making the act purely symbolic.)

Today, the world stands once again flustered by Kim Jong-Il's narcissistic overtures for international recognition. Yesterday, the impoverished nation conducted an underground nuclear test, flying in the face of international agreement, and launched three ground-to-air missiles. This has raised understandable concerns not only over North Korea's potential nuclear capacity but also where that technology could spread given the country's unstable inclinations.

North Korea's actions have always been about showmanship. The country is gripped in the iron first of propaganda, which blares out across the nation at all times. False newspapers, outdated maps, and misinformation teach citizens that the North is in control and deeply respected by the international community. No matter how bad things might be, North Korea is head and shoulders above the world. Four-lane highways and posh hotels exist as testaments to North Korea's great prosperity. Yet they lie empty, as vacant as the affluence they represent.

Despite the nation being closed to the world, reports trickle out of North Korea every now and again. A couple of years ago, a Globe and Mail reporter snuck in along with a Chinese tour group. He reported desolate streets, trucks blaring out propaganda at all hours, and false shrines of Western admiration. He reported a people so impoverished that they would leave their homes daily to collect twigs and grass to eat. Malnourishment has made stunted growth so rampant that the army, which once had a height restriction of 5'3, now regularly includes soldiers in the 4-foot range.

Starting in the mid-1990s, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (who reportedly wears elevator shoes to enhance his 5-foot-3 height) ordered people to do special exercises designed to make them taller. As a result, it is not uncommon to see students hanging from rings or parallel bars for as long as 30 minutes. Basketball is also promoted as a national sport to instill the yearning for height.

"Grow taller!" instruct banners hung in some schoolyards, defectors and aid workers say.


Meanwhile, Jong-Il languishes as one of the world's largest consumers of French wine while sending his sons to study abroad in Switzerland.

Another report came in when a delegation of 400 people was permitted to accompany the New York Philharmonic Orchestra into North Korea. An article in the Toronto Star described how reporters were taken on a tour of a laboratory facility, with dozens of North Korean citizens diligently working away at machines. One machine, the reporter noted, seemed to be broken and unplugged; but that didn't stop its worker from industriously keeping up the facade. When the tour moved on, the reporter snuck back for a second look - all the workers were gone. The show was over.

Kim Jong-Il spends his days trying to garner attention from other countries - making flamboyant displays of anger and defiance. His nuclear posturing is merely the latest (and most dangerous) manifestation of this behaviour. To the community of developed nations, such bravado is frustrating and tiring. To neighbours such as Japan and South Korea, it is downright unnerving. Surely, this pithy nation must realize that in a bona fide conflict it would be blown back to the stone age. But then, perhaps such threats have little punch in a nation where most citizens are already living there.

While its ruler lives in the lap of luxury, citizens of North Korea starve and die. On the rare occasion that one of these unfortunate individuals should escape, they bring with them stories of horror and revulsion.

She went on: "When one is very hungry, one can go crazy. One woman in my town killed her 7-month-old baby, and ate the baby with another woman. That woman's son reported them both to the authorities.

"I can't condemn cannibalism. Not that I wanted to eat human meat, but we were so hungry. It was common that people went to a fresh grave and dug up a body to eat meat. I witnessed a woman being questioned for cannibalism. She said it tasted good."


Of course, little action can be taken against this rogue nation so long as it maintains the support of its communist bosom buddies within the influential People's Republic of China (another misnomer, as the Communist Party of China maintains control over the entire electoral process). Yet even China must eventually recognize that North Korea is increasingly the odd man out. Communist solidarity cannot be used as an excuse to support megalomania... it just looks bad.

Kim Jong-Il, you not-so-sneaky bastard. We know what you're up to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brutus Editorial: This post should not be directed towards Kim Jong Il. It is the Chinese government and Russia that continue to block all attempts by the U.N. in taking sanctions against North Korea. It is the Chinese government that continues giving political support to North Korea in terms of recognizing them internationally, warning other states that North Korea has the right to sovereign actions. Why can't we as a world restrict North Korea further, through sanctions? China. For all the pro-communist ideas mainlanders have about loving the nation and helping the economy, nobody is able to answer my question as to why they support China allying totalitarian countries in Africa, selling weapons to Sudan and helping them commit genocides, helping North Vietnam invade the south, helping Pol Pot commit a genocide in Cambodia, and being super best friends with Fatty Kim. I know the end of your post mentioned the Chinese government, but it was hardly enough. They are the problem. They are the problem to everything andrew.

Sorry. Had to rant.