I recently came across a blog post by fellow MOU correspondent Jay McNair that I felt addresses a topic that is frequently overlooked when the subject of North Korea arises. With the recent provocations, North Korea has been at the forefront of debates and discussions in my political science classes. Most in my class seem convinced that there are only two types of people living in the DPRK: those that commit atrocities and those that atrocities are committed against… put another way: the gun-toting, nuke-button pressing type and the starving type.
In fact, I was quite shocked when one of my professors stated: “North Korea is pretty simple: it’s Heaven for the Kim family and Hell for everyone else.” Granted, he wasn’t a North Korea specialist, but still his assumption regarding North Korea seems to be the universal sentiment, even at institutes of higher learning.
The photos we are inundated with in the media nearly always fall into two camps: the military and the human rights violations. To be clear, I am not denying that human rights violations are taking place or that the military has a central role in the country. What I am trying to get across is that the majority of North Koreans are neither in gulags nor standing post at the DMZ.
The quote that I liked most about McNair’s piece was the following: “Understanding all of North Korea – not just its generals – is an important goal in and of itself; it’s also an important element of any dialogue that aims toward unification.” I could not have put this better myself — understanding that the North Koreans are “just ordinary people like you and me” is an important step we must take to change the overriding perceptions ingrained in our minds that North Korea is nothing more than a desolate, irrational, Mordor-like place.
Photo Credits: In-Goo Kwak / ingookwak.com
For more pictures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqKzTyWnhCQ