North Korea has been called many nasty things by outsiders, such as a rogue state, an isolated paranoid nation, a personality-cult dictatorship, a part of the “axis of evil” and so many others. The words are harsh. Unfortunately, they are accurate. There is not much that is good to say about North Korea, except to recognize the millions who are suffering there and that so many have been brainwashed into believing their leader is some kind of a demigod, so it is really not their fault what is happening. Like the Germans, under Hitler’s rule, they are doing what they are told to do because if they do not, they and all their family members will be killed.
The members of the United Nations do not agree on anything. However, a unanimous resolution on February 14, 2017, condemned North Korea for its recent missile test that is part of its nuclear warhead program. Nobody really wants World War III, yet it seems like a pudgy young man from North Korea is trying to start it. The world does not support this erratic behavior. For a rare moment in U.N. history, it seems like everyone agrees.
The current “Supreme Leader,” Kim Jong-Un, has the nickname of “Kim Fatty the Third” in China. The usage of this nickname for him became so popular in China that the North Korean government asked the Chinese government to ban the search term of “Kim Fatty” from Baidu. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China. The Chinese government, another lover of censorship, complied with the North Korean request.
Enter the search term “Kim Fatty” on the uncensored Google in the USA (Google is also censored in China) and one gets over 37 million hits. Enter the same search term in the Chinese Baidu search engine and there are zero hits!
The irony of this is rather sad. It is obvious that Kim Jong-Un has a weight problem from his photos and it is well known he likes to overeat. As time goes by, from the photos of him, he seems to be expanding into some horrible, gluttonous beast.
The extremely sad part is that many of the people in his country, especially children in the countryside, suffer from severe malnutrition. The World Food Programme says that 6 million of the total population of 24 million North Koreans, which includes one-third of the children, lack enough food. During the 1990s, about two million people died of starvation in North Korea. This was caused by the lack of resources to grow enough food or import it, due to the obsessive concentration on military spending in North Korea. In North Korea, the military gets one-third of the nation’s budget.
Since the ceasefire that halted the Korean War in July 1953, but did not officially end it, there has been the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea. The DMZ divides Korea essentially in half. The differences between the lifestyle in the southern part of Korea and in the northern part are astounding.
North Korea lives in virtual isolation from the rest of the world under one of the most highly controlled societies and a brutal dictatorship that constantly is threatening to attack its neighbors, now with nuclear weapons. The only reason North Korea gets away with such horrific behavior is that China supports them; however, even that relationship is tenuous.
Here are the things that the regular people have to deal with and suffer from, while living or, should we say, barely existing in North Korea.
15. Extremely Limited Internet and Communication Access
Unless you work for the North Korea government’s computer hacking team or have special authorization as a university professor, which is almost impossible to get, North Korean people have absolutely no access to the Internet. Internet traffic for the entire country of North Korea is less than one medium-sized office building in a western country. The North Korean people are completely cut off from communicating with the rest of the world. Many of the poor people do not even know that the Internet exists. If they do know about the technology, they mostly know about the government-controlled intranet in North Korea called “Kwangmyong.”
Kwangmyong has somewhere between 1,000 to 5,000 officially approved websites offering such benign things such as cooking recipes and more official propaganda thinly disguised as news. Only an estimated 10% of the North Korean population has used the Kwangmyong intranet. Computers cost a fortune for an average North Korean worker and the few highly-monitored cyber cafes that do exist in the capital city of Pyongyang are very expensive.
14. The Deadly Bureau 27
The North Korean government has an entire department, called Bureau 27, dedicated to tracking down and stopping illegal Internet access and other forms of communication. Those who are caught attempting illegal access to Internet communication, possessing illegal materials on CDs, DVDs, and other portable media, or simply caught watching South Korean over-the-air television or listening to radio broadcasts are subject to the death penalty. Also, their entire family is sent to a prison camp.
Visiting foreigners are allowed Internet access; however, all of their electronic transmissions, in and out of the country, are monitored and censored. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are completely blocked. Foreign embassies are not permitted to use open, unsecured WIFI, and jamming devices are used to block the WIFI signals. No foreigner is allowed access to North Korea’s Kwangmyong intranet.
13. Death Penalty and Public Executions
North Korea is one of only six countries in the world that have public executions. The other five countries, where public executions occur, are Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. The public executions are carried out by hanging, firing squad, decapitation, and being burned to death with a flamethrower.
The death penalty exists for things that are at most minor offenses even under the worst oppressive regimes elsewhere and not even considered crimes in most parts of the world, such as:
-Possessing and/or Reading the Bible
-Possessing and/or Viewing Pornography
-Watching Foreign Television Programs and Movies
12. It’s Risky Being a Family Member of the “Supreme Leader”
The “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un had his Uncle, Jang Sung-taek executed along with Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-kee, who were two of the closest personal aides to Jang. Other members of Jang’s family were also executed. Jang was married to the sister of Kim Jong-Un. Prior to his execution, he played a key role in the North Korean government and as its emissary met many times with Chinese government officials.
During February 2017, Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated in Malaysia. He was the half-brother to North Korea’s leader Kim-Jong-Un. Kim Jong-Nam was exiled from North Korea by the current leader’s father because he tried and failed to use a forged passport to enter Japan and visit Disney land. The closed-circuit television surveillance camera at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia caught two women on videotape using poisoned needles thrown into Kim Jong-Nam’s face for the attack. He immediately fell sick, having what appeared to onlookers to be a heart attack. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
11. International Telephone Calls are Illegal
Members of Korean families that are still living in South Korea, who were separated by the Korean War and those who escaped North Korea since then, cannot talk to family members who remain trapped in North Korea.
One young woman walked over 100 miles when a black market broker offered to make a phone call to her father living in South Korea. Her father on the South Korean side of the border paid a small fortune to orchestrate this clandestine effort. The woman had not spoken to her father for years. She had been told by the North Korean government previously that her father was killed at the border when he tried to escape. She had to climb a steep mountain near the border to avoid detection by the North Korean police and Special Forces of the military when she made the telephone call. Trying to use an illegal Chinese mobile phone near the border can get a person killed by armed guards who patrol the area with frequency scanning devices. Placing an illegal black market mobile phone call for a few minutes, costs over $200, which is the equivalent of a year’s wages for the average North Korean worker. She got away with this. Others are not as lucky as she was.
Trying to use an illegal Chinese mobile phone near the border can get a person killed by armed guards who patrol the area with frequency scanning devices. Placing an illegal black market mobile phone call for a few minutes, costs over $200, which is the equivalent of a year’s wages for the average North Korean worker. She got away with this. Others are not as lucky as she was.
During October 2007, a manager of a factory in the South Pyongan province was convicted of making international phone calls from 13 secret phones he had installed in the basement of his factory. He was publicly executed by firing squad in front of a crowd of about 150,000 people in a stadium. The onlookers were expecting to see a sports game that day and did not expect to see a public execution. The execution caused the crowd to panic. Six of the spectators died in the crowd’s rush to leave the stadium.
10. Helium Balloon Propaganda
South Korean political activists routinely send helium-filled balloons over the border when the wind currents are flowing in the proper direction. Packages of pamphlets and other goods are attached to these balloons. When a balloon reaches the correct place, it is triggered to pop by a timed-device. When the balloons pop they release pamphlets, CDs, DVDs, and USB memory sticks in packages that float safely to the ground using mini parachutes, hopefully, to be scattered across North Korea.
North Korean people are afraid to even touch them because mere possession of a single one can get you killed. On the other hand, military units that are dispatched to collect the falling materials routinely keep the good parts, such as candy, pornography, money, and DVD movies, even sharing some of the loot with their generals.
The South Korea government used to sponsor such propaganda campaigns; however, they ceased official sponsorship due to the escalating tensions between North and South Korea.
Nevertheless, dissidents made up of mostly North Koreans defectors, continue the ongoing propaganda campaign. Most South Koreans support a unified Korea between north and south as a democracy; however, there is not full support by South Koreans for these propaganda campaigns. North Korea has threatened missile attacks on South Korea if the propaganda continues and many South Koreans feel these propaganda campaigns might lead to nuclear war.
9. Prison Death Camps
North Korea has tens of thousands of its citizens in death camps where they are forced to work as slave labor. Attempting to escape, stealing food, criticizing the government, or not giving up religious beliefs are all causes for public executions in the death camps.
In the five known North Korea prison camps, there are somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 people. Many have life sentences, not for committing any regular crime, but because they are political prisoners. The entire family of an “offender” is arrested. This is because North Korea has a three-generation policy of punishment for the entire family of anyone committing a supposed offense against the government. Any children born in these camps remain prisoners for life as well. Beatings, rape, torture, and death from illness or malnutrition are commonplace. The prisoners with life sentences will all work as prison slaves until they die and so will the rest of their family.
These death camps in North Korea, which are the size of small cities, have been in existence longer than Hitler’s concentration camps and Stalin’s Siberian Gulags of the former Soviet Union. This makes the North Korean cult leaders, from the same family that has held power since 1912, the worst torturers and mass murderers in history. Of all countries, North Korea has the lowest rating for the complete lack of democracy and is the worst offender against human rights in the world.
8. Limited Television
The only television broadcasts permitted to be legally viewed in North Korea are from stations run by the government. These broadcasts are dedicated to exalting the leadership of the “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un and his family heritage as if he is some kind of God on Earth. There is very little entertainment offered. The broadcasts are political propaganda mixed with ridiculous made-up stories about the cult leaders like how Kim Jong-Un got a perfect score of 300 the first time he went bowling or how he shot six (some say 11) holes-in-one during one 18-hole round of golf.
North Koreans, in general, know very little about actual world events, except what they see on the state-controlled television. There is an emphasis on demonizing the “Imperialist United States” and constant reminders that the U.S., South Korea, and Japan want to attack and kill all North Koreans.
7. No Electricity at Night
North Korea at night on Google Maps looks completely dark. The government forces the country to endure blackouts at night due to its limited electricity resources. Forget about going home after a hard day’s work and after having a nice meal kicking back to watch some late night television before nodding off to sleep. There is no television to watch late at night because there is no power at the government-run television station and almost anywhere else for that matter. The few lights seen on the nighttime map of North Korea are from the capital of Pyongyang. They illuminate a few government buildings and the gigantic billboards of the cult leaders that are literally everywhere you look.
However, one thing that is lit up is the single tourist hotel that foreign visitors must stay in. It sits in a very isolated part of the capital city as almost an island unto itself. It is brightly lit in the interior at night and highly guarded. Guests are not permitted to leave the hotel at night, so it is like a fancy prison for visitors.
6. North Korea has its Own Calendar
North Korea uses a calendar that is not the Western calendar that we are used to, nor is it based on the Chinese calendar that is so popular in other parts of Asia. The North Korean calendar is based the birth year of the current leader’s grandfather, Kim-Il-Sung who was born in 1912. It is as if nothing before that time matters. This is similar to the way Christians use B.C. to indicate “before Christ” and A.D. which is an abbreviation for “anno Domini,” which is Latin that means “the year of our Lord” in English.
Christianity is banned in North Korea. The only thing North Koreans are allowed to worship is their cult leaders. This means that the current year of 2017 in North Korea is the year 105 because it is one hundred and five years after the birth of the “Eternal President” Kim-Il-Sung. No more presidents are allowed in North Korea because Kim-Il-Sung abolished the office of the president forever, so he could lay permanent claim to the title. His son Kim-Jong-Il took the leadership name of “General.” This is why the current leader is called the “Supreme Leader” and “Marshall” of the military and not “President.”
Besides having to use this calendar, every home in the country is required by law to have a double portrait of Kim-Il-Sung and Kim-Jong-Il on their walls. They must clean it every day with a special towel used only for that purpose or face arrest. The police make surprise inspection visits to force compliance by all residents of North Korea.
5. Lack of Freedoms
There is no freedom of movement in North Korea of any kind. The government owns all the land. Only high-ranking military officials can own private vehicles. North Koreans cannot leave the country and are not permitted, without special authorization, to travel within their own country. Many have been forcibly relocated and assigned jobs that they must do.
If anyone tries to leave North Korea they risk capture by over one million soldiers patrolling the borders. If caught, they are executed. If they happen to escape to China and are caught by the Chinese they are sent back to North Korea. China has the official policy of not recognizing North Koreans who escape as refugees and returns them to North Korea where they face certain death.
There is no freedom of speech. Those who criticize the government risk having their entire family end up in a prison camp. There is no freedom of even how to dress or personal looks. Children, who are students, must wear their uniforms at all times, even when not in school. There are only 28 legally-approved haircuts that include for men the Chairman Mao style and the “Three-Stooges” look of the “Supreme Leader.”
4. Religious Persecution
There is no freedom of religion. Anyone caught practicing a religion of any kind, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and all other religions or is found in possession of religious texts or items, is sent to a prison camp for “re-education” or is publicly executed.
The only things allowed to be worshiped are the cult leaders, past and present. The population is forced to do this. This indoctrination begins during nursery school, where children are forced to learn and sing about the glorious accomplishments and almost supernatural powers of the “Supreme Leader.” The curriculum in the schools consists of a majority of the time learning about the history of the cult leaders and the myths and complete lies about their special nature and abilities.
3. Lack of Food Causes Poor Public Health
The chronic shortages of food leave a huge portion of the population at below subsistence level. The people in North Korea are slowly starving to death, including the 8 million in the army. They farmers in rural North Korea only eat corn and “Kim chi” (fermented cabbage), which does not provide enough nutrition. This abysmal diet stunts the growth of children. North Korean children are, on average, two inches shorter than the same age of South Korean children, simply because of lack of food. The poor nutrition makes them much more likely to get ill. The food shortages have been ongoing for almost three decades.
When Westerners visit North Korea, they are always accompanied by “guides,” who watch them day and night. They visitors are shown vibrant children of the wealthy, who are all full of radiant smiles because of their equally full stomachs. No foreigner is permitted to travel north of the capital to see the true devastation and abject poverty of the rest of North Korea. All the pomp and circumstance and glorious parade and stadium events in North Korea are all facade. Millions of North Korean children are suffering because of this failed policy of the cult leaders. Humanitarian aide would pour into this country like a flood to help these children if the charitable NGO agencies were permitted to bring the food to the starving North Korean children. The problem is that this would mean the “Supreme Leader” would have to admit to the true conditions of suffering in his country.
This is no conjecture. The barren and failed agricultural fields in the north are easy to photograph from satellite and the poor conditions of life are just as easy to see. They cannot grow anything without seeds and supplies. One tiny ray of hope is to mention is that Kim Jong-Un instituted a new policy to let the poor farmers keep 30% of what they grow on the state-owned land. Previously, 100% was taken from them, literally leaving them to starve to death. At least Kim Jong-Un is smart enough to know dead peasants produce no food for anyone.
We would encourage Kim Jong-Un the next time he has a twelve-course meal to continue this more benevolent policy towards the poorest farmers. Their lives depend on this. We are not sure what exactly it is that he might do because this kind of deal (that included sharing in the bounty) was offered to the North Korean fisherman by his uncle. This was the uncle that Kim Jong-Un killed, only to have the government come in afterward on the orders of Kim Jong-Un and once again seize the entire fish catch to feed the military.
In his country, Kim Jong-Un has starving peasant farmers, starving children, starving fishermen and their families, and starving soldiers. Still, he continues to get fatter and fatter. If this were not so serious, we would think he wants to become the “Fat Bastard” from the Austin Powers movies starring Mike Meyers.
Historically speaking, the last time someone, so publicly associated with power, had such a disregard for the starvation of the lower classes was when Marie Antoinette was told that the peasants had no bread to eat in France. She said, “Then let them eat cake!” Her reward was to have her head chopped off and the rest of that history was the French Revolution, which deposes the monarchy. Being publicly fat, while so many are starving, is a game plan that does not have a positive end result. Kim Jong-Un needs to start losing weight immediately or figure out how to feed his people. Gluttony is one of the seven “deadly” sins whether one believes in the Bible or not.
The health care system in North Korea fell apart during the 1990s. It is only operating in the capital of the country, Pyongyang. In the rural parts of the country, there are no health care services for the poor. Treatments are only available for those who can afford it and can travel to Pyongyang. This causes poverty-related diseases that are easily preventable and treatable, like tuberculosis or cataracts, to afflict many of poor people, especially the elderly.
2. The Songbun Caste System
Individual North Koreans are assigned a level in the society based on their family background. This “Songbun” system is a form of apartheid that categorizes people into different groups based on their family of birth. Minority groups in North Korea are given the worst jobs, such as those who live in the northern part of the country, far away from the capital. For example, children from those minority families are forced to work in the North Korean coal mines from the age of seven.
There are 51 different levels of the Songbun caste system. The level of a person determines where they can live, what work they do, who they can marry, whether they can go to school, what school they can attend if permitted to go to school, and how they serve in the military with limits on the rank they can achieve. This also determines the type of treatment by the criminal justice system. Any infraction by any family member causes the entire Songbun of the family to be reduced.
1. Harsh and Collective Punishment
If any member of any family is found guilty of crimes against the state, such as criticizing the regime, then the entire family is punished for three generations. Being guilty of an anti-state crime is solely determined by the government in a mock trial where the accused is not allowed to put up any significant defense. Of all the people accused of this crime, 100% are presumed to be guilty and are found guilty.
One young American protester, Matthew Todd Miller, who upon arrival in North Korea physically tore up his North Korean visa in front of the customs officers, was sentenced to six-years in prison at a hard labor camp. He did this on purpose and was willing to sacrifice himself to draw global attention to the death camps in North Korea. He regrets this decision now because he may not live to tell the tale. The conditions in the death camps are so brutal that within six years of torture and abuse, in a forced-labor camp prison, he will probably die. There is no way to get him out of North Korea now. We simply pray for his survival.
Another American student visiting North Korea, Otto Frederick Warmbier, was arrested in March 2017 for taking down a political poster in the hotel. He was trying to steal it and take it home as a souvenir. He was arrested at the airport on his way home before he could leave the country. His trial lasted about one hour. He was sentenced to 15-years in prison and hard labor. In other more civilized countries, this kind of petty theft is dealt with by a simple fine and perhaps some community service work to make amends.
Any North Korean person wanting to fight for democracy or freedom in North Korea, who may be willing to sacrifice themselves, will also have to be willing to sacrifice their entire family.
No one escapes this. Not even members of the cult leader’s family. If Kim Jong-Un wants someone imprisoned or killed, he simply orders it. His own uncle was dragged out of the national parliament, while the session was being aired on government-controlled television. He was arrested, captured by a team lead by Kim Jong-Un’s older brother, put in prison, and then after a mock trial, he was executed. The man’s entire family was either executed or put in prison. This was the biggest bloody purge in North Korean history since the 1950s.
Like a vicious, paranoid emperor from the ancient past, Kim Jong-Un eliminates any threats or perceived threats to his rule as the “Supreme Leader” of North Korea, the “Marshall” of the North Korean military, and “Kim Fatty the Third.”
There is no reasonable “rule of law” in North Korea, only the rule by the whims of this thirty-something megalomaniac who possesses nuclear bombs and who might be impulsive enough or foolish enough to use them in an act of war. Of course, everyone, including Kim Jong-Un would die in North Korea if he uses nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike. Unfortunately, so would many others, almost all innocent.
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