Life in North Korea

The real reason to worry has nothing to do with nuclear weapons.

By Nia Botti, Staff Writer

The North Korean Olympic athletes have a privilege and a let-down all in one.  They are lucky because unlike most people in their country, they get to experience the outside world.  For a small amount of time, they get to know what freedom and innovation feel like.  The North Korean athletes get to experience people expressing themselves, city lights (electricity is shut off at night in North Korea), and crowds of happy people having fun.

They may also be amazed by the number of cars on the road, as cars are banned for average citizens in North Korea because it is illegal to move about the country without special permission. Citizens are also not allowed to leave the country unless they are high government officials or athletes that have been selected by the government–or dictator– to compete internationally.

After the competition is over, they will be flown back home, knowing what the outside world is like. Sadly, they may never be able to escape or leave the country for anything else ever again.  The Olympic athletes that are currently competing will be back to so-called ‘reality’ in just a few short days. North Korea isn’t just a crazy nation with a dictator that everyone makes fun of, and the country doesn’t affect the rest of the world nearly as much as it affects its own citizens.

Korea was one nation up until the Korean War.  At the end of the Korean War, the United States took control of the south and set up a model of their own government there, which is still functioning today.  The Soviet Union took control of the north and allowed the cruel Kim Dynasty to take over.  The Kim Dynasty still rules North Korea.

they learn of the outside world and can get by in China after learning to speak Chinese”

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is far from a republic.  The citizens all vote, but there is only one person on the ballot— Kim Jong-Un, the dictator that comes from the Kim dynasty.  Anyone else who even attempted to run for office would probably be killed, which is why no one has dared to try.  Because this is the case, many people wonder why the North Koreans even vote at all, but the dictator has his reasons for holding an election. Kim Jong-Un wants to fool the world and show that he has a free country, but everyone knows that this isn’t the truth.  North Korean defectors have shared what goes on behind the nation’s borders, and what they have described is far from freedom.

When a North Korean wakes up in the morning, the first thing they do is turn on the television.  This may make the nation seem like it is freer and a little bit technological, but this is not even a little bit close the case.  North Korean televisions only have one channel.  Sometimes, it shows kids cartoons which are full of propaganda and death scenes.  They portray the North Koreans as being ‘the good guys’ and the Americans, South Koreans, Japanese and other nations against the country as ‘the bad guys’.  The other program the channel shows is the news, which keeps the citizens updated on the activity of their ‘supreme leader’.  If a Korean lives in a large city such as Pyongyang, they may be privileged enough to enjoy a good breakfast, but in most other places, breakfast is most likely not an option because extreme poverty and famine consume most of the country.

In large cities, people immediately head to work after eating breakfast and watching the news.  Those who are lucky have jobs such as traffic officers (there are no stoplights in North Korea), hairdressers, and tailors.  Other jobs include teachers and sculptors that create statues of the Kim regime. Several women also work in markets. Most people that don’t live in the capital city of Pyongyang are either farmers or if they’re lucky enough to live near the Chinese border, are able to trade goods with the Chinese.  Many people that have this privilege end up defecting from the country because they learn of the outside world and can get by in China after learning to speak Chinese.

North Koreans only make about 1,100 USD per year, but that doesn’t make them automatically poor.  Housing is ‘free’ in North Korea, but it’s only free as far as money goes.  In order to truly have a good home, a person must be extremely loyal to Kim Jong-Un.  High government officials and high ranking people in the military are normally awarded with good apartments.  All others are either homeless or have an apartment that isn’t nearly as nice as what the regime’s pets get.  People are allowed to trade homes, but many North Koreans lack the sense to do this being that they have not been brought up to serve others, but the regime.

The people of North Korea have no freedom whatsoever.  For example, when it comes time for a haircut, every salon or barber shop has a chart with pictures of people with eighteen different haircuts.  A person must choose one of these and has to keep it up as well, with the exception of the Kim family, who can have their hair cut any way they choose.  North Koreans cannot travel around the country without consent from the government, and cannot even own cars for travel around the city.  Freedom of Religion doesn’t exist either.  The Kim regime is recognized as the official religion, and all other religions are strictly prohibited.  Any religious objects found are immediately destroyed, especially Bibles, because the government strongly dislikes Christianity.  The reason for this is that there are Christians in China that have helped thousands of North Koreans defect, and Christianity is a driving force that encourages North Koreans to work towards leaving the country.

— When he was finally able to return to the United States, he died of exhaustion and undernourishment

Concentration camps—those don’t exist anymore! Or at least that’s what several people think.  The Kim regime is estimated to own at least 30 concentration camps, if not more.  When most people hear the term ‘concentration camp’, they think of the Holocaust, and the genocide toward the Jews that took place during WW2, but modern concentration camps in North Korea have conditions that are just as harsh.  In Fact, an American, Otto Warmbeir, spent sixteen years in a North Korean concentration camp.  When he was finally able to return to the United States, he died of exhaustion and undernourishment.

North Korea is clearly not a nation to joke about.  Many people don’t see the nation as a problem because it can’t harm them, but the citizens aren’t so lucky, and it may very well be time that people considered that the real problem in North Korea isn’t nuclear weapons, but the dehumanization of the people inside the country.  Human rights have been stripped from them all because they happened to be on the wrong side of the border during the Korean War.  None of it is funny, despite all of the Kim Jong-Un memes that are currently going viral.  Life in North Korea is a tragedy that the Americans, South Koreans, or their allies will hopefully be able to end very soon.