It was approximately 5:30 pm when I sat down to write up this blog post on Friday. When I got to my desktop, I was completely stumped. "What am I going to write about?” I thought to myself while contemplating. There were not too many topics that I was interested in until I came across one coincidently. My parents were downstairs watching a documentary by Lisa Ling. Lisa Ling is a very well known television journalist who writes for National Geographic. She is also one of my favorite television personalities because she uses her platform to investigate and report many important global issues. In the documentary, Ling traveled to North Korea or as she describes it as "the most isolated country on Earth."
She was accompanied by Dr. Sandeep Ru it, who operated on thousands of North Korean citizens to perform cataract surgeries for free. Cataracts cloud the lenses of the eyes, enabling vision impairment. Blindness is very common in North Korean because of the lack of basic medical facilities. Ling, along with another American photographer, pose as members of Dr. Ru it's medical team. The whole trip was watched with scrutiny by North Korean minders even before the team boarded their flight to North Korea. North Korea is strictly regulated and operated on a tyrannical dictatorship. One defector from the film explains, "it is impossible to describe how North Korea is without experiencing it from firsthand." To broaden the view on North Korean's society, I must explain how and why the country is divided from the rest of the world.
After Japan lost Korea as an ally, the American south troops and the communist North split off following the end of World War II. Now, that dividing "wall" that splits North and South Korea continues to remain (the intersection is watched 24/7 and surrounded by electrical fencing and land mines). The leader of North was North Korea's idol Kim II Sung. Kim II Sung is the name that is printed on everything: every newspaper article, every poster, and everything in the media. In the North, the Great Leader is their God. People live in complete control, under this oppressive regime. Disobedience is forbidden and certain death is punishment for rebels. The government monitors all citizens, even in their own homes. Ling says that the house that her team stayed at had cameras that watched them for suspicious behavior. Needless to say, the people of Korea live in complete isolation since they are cut off from everything include technological and scientific advances. Many of the social media sites in the Western world are prohibited. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have never been introduced to people in North Korea. In their world, outside influences are considered "dangerous." Education is limited and is only taught according to Kim II Sung. Only the children of the elite are educated- primarily to be trained as future generals and leaders of North Korea. While researching more into this topic, I realized how different my education is compared to those in North Korea. Science is such a big part of our world. We are always searching for more answers through scientific studies, however it seems that North Korea is not as eager as the United States.
The main question that came to mind was "How can one person, ONE leader, impact a country so much, to the point of brainwashing?" People in North Korea are not allowed to think for themselves, which is the opposite of the purpose of education. However, as a writer Suki Kim stated in her book Without You, There Is No US, people cannot orchestrate a rebellion. If anyone questions authority, it can do much more damage than good. So, is it right to allow North Korea to function as it is? Is ignorance bliss? Is it better that people are informed about Western influences or remain sheltered under the communist regime? These are questions we must ask ourselves in order to examine our society from the parts that scare us the most.