Indoctrination of children via animal-themed cartoons, concentration camps, nuclear threats, and famine describe the hermit kingdom of North Korea. Unless a family is considered part of the country’s elite in the Orwellian social hierarchy, this is not a place anyone would choose to live. The vast majority of North Koreans are victims of their circumstances; they are as human as anyone beyond their electric-fenced borders.
Their government and “Great Marshal” do not reflect them.
Seth Rogen’s “The Interview” was a satirical sensation. However, it perpetuated the stereotype that the country is a joke. It invalidates North Korea’s culture and also the truths of their power.
The average American’s perception of North Korea is based on what they are fed by the media. They are either served the catch of the day, such as a recent missile launch, the classic five-course labor camp story, or the occasional comedy film special.
Despite oppressive governance, North Koreans still have an identity and pop culture. Perhaps if our media were able to separate North Koreans from the inhumane actions of their dictatorship, we would be able to view them as people too.
While Kim Jong-un is what we are exposed to, defectors and journalists paint a different view of North Korea: the people themselves are “normal,” they are victims not enemies, and the elite enjoy “free world” privileges, such as skiing, zoos, waterparks, universities, shopping, and cinema.
The black market provides North Korea with access to globalized society; teenagers revel in watching South Korean soap operas on smuggled DVDs and adults rave about ABC’s “Scandal,” according to a Wired Magazine report.
Millennials in North Korea go out on movie dates and have cell phones, just like us. However, the films rarely rotate out and their phones can only make calls within the country. The latter is what America would see on TV rather than the parallels between teens here and in North Korea.
Our perception of North Koreans needs to change. The same way Castro did not represent Cubans is how the Kim dynasty does not represent North Koreans.
If we continue to assume they are caricatures, it not only normalizes the mistreatment of North Koreans but also causes North Korea to believe we are still in a war — thus, why they continue missile testing despite UN resolutions.
By being more open-minded about North Korea, we are not applauding their government; we are supporting the people.
The Korean War is known as the “Forgotten War,” but we cannot forget about its aftermath and the people still trapped today.
They are as human as we are.