- Posted November 2, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
My End Point
How does the regime shape the North Korean people's perception of the world - and themselves?
In order to understand the nature of the North Korea versus South Korea ( and - indirectly - the world ) conflict and possible ways of resolving it, one has to discern the modus operandi of North Korean totalitarianism, as the reclusive state is clearly the super-villain here. Where does it stem from? How different is it to other regimes? Is it vulnerable to modern waves of revolutionary change?
This essay is an attempt at understanding the thought processes behind both the North Korean elite, as well as the population.
What are totalitarian regimes?
Totalitarian regimes cannot operate without controlling the minds of its citizens. There are different ways in which totalitarian regimes are born (some through democracy as was the case of National Socialism, commonly known as Nazism, others through a direct imposition of power and political manipulation accompanying the Big Brother policy as was the case of Poland). Officially, totalitarian regimes are in the minority in 2012. However, there are still hardcore cases of mass mind control, the most notable being North Korea.
In North Korea, the minds of the citizens are under a constant assault involving explicit propaganda, as well as more subtle ways of control, where even a slightest hint of dissent is cracked down on with merciless determination.
One has to draw a conclusion that, despite all the hardships the population in NK endures every day, the regime appears to be as stable as ever. Despite popular uprisings around the world, North Korea managed to devise an extremely effective population control mechanism. Isolated and with citizens knowing nothing else, the regime established a self-sustaining monster ready to kill anyone who opposes it.
The author of this essay is not claiming democracy is a flawless system with freedom of information and freedom of choice for all. Intelligent human beings surely understand how utopian that vision truly is. In words of Churchill, ''democracy is the worst solution, but we haven't come up with anything better.''
On the contrary, the very word ''democracy'' can be translated as, ''dictatorship of the people'', but - due to the crisis - we are actually experiencing a merger of state and corporate powers, which is getting closer and closer to fascism. A controversy which surfaced regarding ACTA (negotiated in secret), and a myriad of other examples, where the powers that be are not interested in consultations with the public, is truly staggering and offers a wake-up call for those who - rather naively - thought governments serve them.
Regardless, for the purpose of this essay, let us suppose democracy offers a relative degree of freedom compared with modern expressions of totalitarian regimes.
North Korea - how the student outlived the master
As it is the case of many totalitarian regimes currently in existence, North Korea is a child of the second world war. It is proclaimed on September 11, 1948, under the supervision of the occupying Soviet forces who entered the Korean territory in August 1945 after liberating the locals from the Japanese occupation.
The Soviets preferred Korean Communists who had spent the war years in the Soviet Union in power, rather than the Korean Communist Party. Kim Il-sung is named head of the North Korean Provisional People's Committee in February 1946. Kim then became Prime Minister, a post which he held until 1972, before becoming President.
The Kim dynasty had been established; the seeds of terror were sown.
As it can be clearly seen, North Korean Communism was allowed to be established by the Soviet Union. In a twist of irony, the Soviet Union is long gone, while the North Korean version of paradise does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Resisting international pressure, one cannot ignore a thought North Korean elite had established their own private fiefdom composed of millions.
North Korean Elite - A Tantalizing Collective
Carefully orchestrated appearances of the North Korean elite are meant to create a sense of divine presence among the population. The elite is elusive, making sure the population only sees what it is supposed to see. It was quite a common occurrence for the departed ''dear leader'' to appear in food-filled stores for ''unexpected'' inspections.
The word unexpected cannot be taken seriously, as nothing is left to chance in panoptic regimes such as North Korea. Regardless, the population sincerely believes their leader is always with them, while maintaining his godly (one could even say, pantheistic) status.. and if a particular individual has doubts about the propaganda, then he can only escape the dystopia by paying the Chinese smugglers and hoping he can survive the currents of the river - or remain silent forever.
Not much is known about the successor, the youngest of Kim-Jong Il's sons, who - it is claimed - studied in Switzerland. This is another trait of totalitarian regimes: while the population is kept in the dark, the elite is offered the best of the best in terms of education. The population is told, of course, the leader is ''one of them'', yet he is also a tantalizing figure, indeed - a demigod. Needless to say, the vast majority of the citizens will never see Switzerland, perhaps not even knowing such a place exists.
The leader had to cement his power by displaying his prowess to the internal forces of the regime. If the leader was perceived as weak, it could increase the chances of a coup. Many commentators believe the shelling of a South Korean island was a display of power by Kim Jong-Il.
The internal propaganda apparatus - already landing on fertile ground with the brainwashed population- simply added to the enemy's audacity by confirming the ''siege mentality'' of the people.
The external propaganda aims to portray North Korea as a state under siege, always attacked, always bullied around by the imperialists (it is a common linguistic feature of any regime, they are often going to portray their enemies as puppets of evil forces, such as in the case of South Korean government, who are constantly referred to as ''the puppet of the American government.'')
The current leader of North Korea is purported to have said he, ''will not alter the course of his father's politics by one iota.'' This is to be expected, as any paradigm shift on the regime's part would mean opening to the outside world, which cannot happen if the regime wants to maintain a grip on the minds of the citizens. The latter only proves, yet again, how naive certain people are when uttering statements such as, ''when he sees the world, his policies will surely change.''
The Population, Aka ''The Chosen Ones''
North Korean population was inculcated with a belief the outside world is a hellish place. Children are ordered to physically attack posters of Washington, the population is shown the alleged massacres American soldiers were involved in during the Korean war.
As a result, it is fair to say the level of hatred of the outside world among the population in North Korea is comparable to that of a post-war Europe toward Nazi Germany. The regime ensures the hatred is constantly incited, with occasional glimmers of truth coming from the outside, thanks to an increasingly technocratic world around us. Still, the glimmer of truth is not nearly enough to alter the course of an entire country.
North Korea is not only the most isolated state on the planet, it is also one of the most belligerent ones. Fiery rhetoric, mostly based on hyperbole, makes sure the citizens are constantly reminded who the enemy is. On the other hand, however, a luxurious hotel on an island in the middle of Pyongyang awes the foreigners who visit the country. As with everything, their every move, who they interact with, is tightly controlled by the government-accredited guides.