It seems the only way to appreciate North Korea is with a good sense of humor. The nation serves as one of the few modern examples of an utterly ineffectual and yet completely self-assured totalitarian state. The North Korean government calls itself the “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” and claims to be the legitimate government of the entire Korean Peninsula. Under the slightest scrutiny, both of those claims crumble to pieces. Just outside the scope of their propaganda lurks endless human rights violations and the ever-present demilitarized zone blatantly separates their governmental doctrine of “military first” from the much more prosperous, Americanized south. It is a game of zealous language and control which keeps the national image so completely skewed. Whether the DPRK heads of state are simply deluded or vicious is a difficult question to answer. Perhaps our own news media hides the glorious life awaiting those who might choose to emigrate to the socialist nation.
I sincerely doubt that, though. Humanitarian offenses by the DPRK are well known and ongoing. Tourists are strictly guided about only a few designated zones. Out of view, hundreds of thousands of political prisoners are held in detention camps, over a million North Koreans have starved to death, and freedom of speech is nonexistent. The only legal radio and television programs are operated by the government, and they air little more than baseless propaganda. People are regularly kidnapped for personal and political reasons. Kim Jong Un for example, ordered the capture of the famous South Korean movie star Choi Eun-hee and her lauded film producing ex-husband Shin Sang-ok. After five years in captivity, Shin would direct seven films with Kim Jong Il as the executive producer.
The Kim dynasty is an interesting political condition. Others within the government such as the leaders of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Chau Thae Bok and Kim Yong Nam, have the opportunity to vote in new rulers, but the cult of personality surrounding the Kim family makes any sort of competition or conflict with the government’s self-imposed status quo. Kim Jong Un is the third in what might be an endless line of rotund rulers. He is held in power by the legacy of his fathers, others can do little more than wince as the Kims do as they please with zero accountability. Political assassinations are the norm; Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his own uncle shortly after taking his father’s office, out of a power struggle.
The first Kim, Kim Il Sung was the revolutionary leader of northern Korea during World War II. According to the often-disputed accounts of his early life, he was continually engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese occupiers, who had taken control of the peninsula in 1910. After the defeat of the Japanese, Kim was recommended directly to Stalin to become the Communist leader of the nation in 1945.
Kim is often credited with personally launching the attack which resulted in the Korean War. He convinced the Chinese to okay the offensive by claiming Stalin supported the reunification of the peninsula. After the bloody Korean conflict, Kim found himself comfortably in power in the North.
Kim Il-Sung still holds the title of “eternal president,” a name which reflects his cult of personality while shining light on his misguided priorities and failure to achieve his goal of living 100 years. Il-Sung’s attempts to make it to the celebration of his centennial included several cheek-pinchingly adorable activities. He sought his prescribed laughter through observing toddlers, and also received blood transfusions from young volunteers who were fed specific nutritious diets to bolster his health.
Kim Jong Un is only 31 and yet blatantly unhealthy. He is a smoker and clearly overweight. After he limped onto stage for a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of his grandfather’s death, Kim Jong Un disappeared from the public eye for a month. Recently he has returned, and rumors abound that he has been undergoing treatment for gout and hypertension and that he may have traveled to China to have his stomach stapled in an attempt to lose his cake-belly.
The DPRK is anything but what its name implies. Images of the Korean peninsula at night clearly shows the disparity between the north and south, the dark night-time skyline of the north reveals its economic struggle and reflects the misguided monotony of the Kims.