We hear about North Korea on the news on an almost daily basis. Whether we’re sniggering at the latest picture of the ‘Dear Leader’ on the ‘Kim Jong-un Looking At Things‘ Tumblr page or nervously reading news stories about their supposed extensive range of nuclear weapons pointed right at us – we can’t stop talking about The Hermit Kingdom. 

North Korea, otherwise ironically known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a 100% homogenous society, in that everyone is ruled by one person – Kim Jong-un. The country ranks lowest in terms of its human rights, is staunchly secretive and allows no one in or out of the country. Various film makers and journalists have entered the country  disguised as tourists on government sanctioned, incredibly staged tour groups, and a few documentaries have trickled out, exposing the truth behind the South Korean border. 

Let’s back it up and just establish the basics around what we do know about North Korea. At the helm of the country is Kim Jong-un, who took over the role of supreme leader when his father died in 2011. At the tender age of thirty-one, he rules over the country which has a GDP of just $40 billion. In the last couple of weeks we’ve heard stories of his love interest being executed, his uncle being fed to a pack of starving dogs and how he used his troops to stage an attack on a South Korean  airport. He’s portrayed in the media as a cherub faced, psychopathic leader of a very deprived and brainwashed nation – but that’s perhaps not what the people of North Korea think. 

…cherub faced, psychopathic leader of a very deprived and brainwashed nation… 

Brainwashed to believe that the West is essentially screwing them over, the people of North Korea are fed endless propaganda from their government. With awful labour camps, evil punishments for anyone who does not fall in line and a disregard for the remotest human rights, North Korea’s population of an estimated 24 million is constantly under the watchful eye of the government. 

What are the rest of the world doing then? With the threat of imminent nuclear attacks, war on the doorstep and human rights being so aggressively ignored – surely something needs to be done? Well, there is one huge road block. China. China and North Korea have a weird, but mostly friendly relationship. North Korea’s only major ally, China has encouraged NK to follow a similar plan to prosperity to their own. (North Korea have yet to take them up on this plan.) Fortunately though, Kim Jong-un may have ruined North Korea’s chances with their closest friend after the execution of his uncle who acted as the main communication conduit between the countries. Oops. 

…are the human rights of those 24 million people enough to step in?…

Interfering with North Korea may not be worth it to the larger countries of the West. To jeopardise the relationship with the East, to create worldwide unrest, and to spend all of that money – are the human rights of those 24 million people enough to step in? In all serious, maybe not. We don’t know enough about what goes on behind the DMZ (demilitarised zone) – in fact, we hardly know anything at all. The North Korean government can seem a bit of a laughing stock, with photographs of Kim Jung-un sitting at a dilapidated computer hovering his finger over a big red button or recent reports that the country celebrated after successfully sending an astronaut to the sun. Can we really take them seriously as a threat? 

We’ll continue to hear more about The Hermit Kingdom over coming weeks, months and years without a shadow of a doubt. What is next for the country is unknown, but what remains is the fact that millions of people are, however unknowingly, living under a horrific dictatorship without a voice.

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