1984, cannibalism, Charlie Sheen, Christopher Hitchens, communism, defecting from North Korea, defectors, DPRK, Free World, Google Maps, Hermit Kingdom, Kim Jong-Un, Korean war, meltdown, North Korea, nuclear bombs, nuclear war, Panmunjom, Pyongyang, sexiest man alive, South Korea, the Onion
Having recently set up a Google Alert on my email for any articles related to North Korea, it would appear that the Hermit Kingdom truly is on the brink of imploding. I originally set up the alert to highlight any potential parallels I could draw between the North and the South, but found that after only a couple of weeks, it’s been almost as crazy as following Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown back in 2011.
Although an armistice was signed in Panmunjom in 1953, when the two Koreas were officially split down the 38th Parallel – creating the infamous DMZ and two diametrically opposed ideological states – a peace treaty has not been signed to date. So all the recent events really interest me since I am living in a state technically at war with a rogue state that is currently ramping up its nuclear capacity.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been providing us with its own strange brew of communism since its inception, one that the late Christopher Hitchens likened, quite rightly, to something straight out of 1984, except that unlike George Orwell, you just can’t make this shit up.
You may recall that in his first-ever televised public address, in fact the first from an NK leader in 19 years, Kim Jong-Un (the sexiest man alive) stated that he would continue to push for reunification with the South and that 2013 would be the year the DPRK would turn into an economic giant. He also said, “The military might of a country represents its national strength. Only when it builds up its military might in every way can it develop into a thriving country.” And he certainly meant what he said.
Following UN imposed sanctions after the December 12th DPRK launch of a test rocket that would put the west coast of the US within range of a nuclear bomb, the ironically-named Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland stated, “If the puppet group of traitors takes a direct part in the UN ‘sanctions’, the DPRK will take strong physical counter-measures against it.” It further stated, “‘Sanctions’ mean a war and a declaration of war against us.”
The puppet group of traitors it refers to is, of course, South Korea, and leads me to reach for a map, work out the blast radius of a nuclear bomb and look for the nearest fridge.
All while this is unravelling and the same month Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, ventured out to NK to discuss a more open internet, Google Maps can now reveal a clearer view of the country -although it isn’t actually thanks to Schmidt’s séjour, which I am sure was a bit of a non-event given that access to the internet is limited and supervised (meaning that they physically look over your shoulder as you browse). The Washington Post has an interesting side-by-side comparison of the maps previously and currently available here.
This is much more important than South Koreans just being able to see where their families are from, in that it enables the rest of the world to get a good look at one of their gulags. The US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea has praised Google high resolution imagery and I am sure that they will be making their voices heard where others have failed.
The reason I write about North Korea in a blog about South Korea is because I believe that 2013 will prove to be a fascinating year to watch the DPRK. With everything from the above-mentioned concentration camps becoming visible, to reports of cannibalism -taking place due to extreme poverty and starvation- to a defector being accused of spying, to the British ambassador releasing a personal account of his experiences.
Instead of leaving you on a bad note, here is a video of the NK’s celebration for the missile launch for you all to enjoy:
Further links of interest:
The official Twitter account of DPRK (100% in Korean, but a curiosity nonetheless): https://twitter.com/uriminzok
A great source of news and opinion about North Korea: http://www.nknews.org/
The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive article: http://www.theonion.com/articles/kim-jongun-named-the-onions-sexiest-man-alive-for,30379/