North Korea is a Communist state, with a policy of diplomatic and economic self-reliance, fronted by the dictator Kim Jong-Il (2010). Choosing to shun the outside world, the government promotes fear and paranoia through propaganda, surveillance and censorship. Through this, Kim maintains his iron grip on his country and its people, with the regime being compared by Ben MacIntyre (2010), to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The citizens of North Korea have no privacy and the absence of individual rights many of us take for granted. For more than 50 years North Korea has been ready to go to war, with their ‘military first’ policy making it mandatory for citizens to participate in a minimum of six years military service (Aljazeera 2010). They have the world’s fourth largest armed forces, and spend the majority of their GDP on the military, relying on aid agencies for food handouts to keep the population from starvation (Aljazeera 2010). North Korea’s nuclear weapon testing, large armies and xenophobia openly affects the rest of the world, not to mention Kim’s ‘Big Brother’ like regime influencing other would be dictators to make Orwell’s fiction a reality.
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My understanding of the situation in North Korea is shaped by the society I live in. As an 18 year old, Australian, Caucasian female, I have the basic rights of freedom. We have limited censorship laws, a democratic voting system and freedom of speech. With all these basic freedoms that I often take for granted, it’s quite difficult to believe how anyone could live in a controlled society like North Korea. We assume that, because the people of North Korea don’t live in a society like ours, that their lives are a misery, proving that without first hand experience it’s impossible to put ourselves in their position. The society I live in is also relatively safe. Kim has given his people a false sense of security, declaring outsiders as the enemy and himself as a protector. Living under a dictatorship is a hard concept to grasp. I have seen Nineteen-Eighty Four and read Animal Farm, and these novels help paint a picture of what life might be like for the citizens of North Korea.
North Korea’s control over information is quite similar to China’s censorship laws. The Great Firewall of China, blocks out any searches pertaining to Tiananmen Square, democracy, freedom of speech, police brutality and many social networking sites. China, on a scale, is not as oppressed as North Korea, but is still incredibly censored. Michael Atkinson, former Attorney-General, caused controversy when he made it a law to post names and postcodes on any internet comments or blogs about the state election. Due to public outcry and message boards comparing the act to the extreme censorship in North Korea and Nazi Germany (Dowdell & McGuire 2010), it was promptly reversed. Censorship is creeping into our society, with the likes of Stephen Conroy, the current Minister of Broadband, Communication and Digital Economy, trying to enforce stronger internet laws (Moses 2010). With these proposed censorship laws, I have to question our ‘freedom of speech’, although it comforts me to know that through mass public outrage laws can be reversed. People born into Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il’s regime wouldn’t known life any other way; they can’t understand freedom and real safety because they haven’t experienced it. I can’t comprehend living in such a controlled country because I have lived in a democratic society. Totalitarianism, extreme censorship and surveillance are very important issues and just because they’re not prevalent in our government, doesn’t mean that they’re not concerning and problematic issues, which could extend to our society and change our political identities.
- Central Intelligence Agency 2010, The World Factbook: North Korea, United States, viewed 20 March 2010 < https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html>
- MacIntyre, B 2010, ‘North Korean Regime Truly Orwellian,’ Australian 1 March, p.9.
- North Korea: A state of war 2010, Aljazeera.net, viewed 17 March 2010,
- Dowdell, A & McGuire, M 2010, ‘Outrage as Rann government, Opposition unite to gag internet state election debate,’ Advertiser 2 February, viewed 20 March 2010,
- Moses, A 2010, ‘Google baulks at Conroy’s call to censor YouTube,’ Age February 11, viewed 20 March 2010
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