New York Times Magazine has an excellent article by Michael Paterniti about North Korean teenagers who escape North Korea to go to South Korea. It is entitled "The Flight of the Fluttering Swallows".
It was easy to forget that they had been born into one social experiment and were now suddenly part of another. In North Korea, they had been required to take daily ideology classes in which they were versed in the illustrious past of their leaders. Given the mythopoetics of the North Korean government and the propaganda -- Kim Il Sung singlehandedly beat back the Japanese, then the Americans; Kim Jong Il showed such scholarly aptitude that his teachers came to him for lessons -- they were instructed that their lives should be molded in the image of these gods and that strict discipline, order and sacrifice were necessary to achieve a state of juche, or self-reliance based on what was best for the collective.
In cloistered North Korea, little of the outside world penetrates or, if so, often comes as a distortion. Se-ok, the most world-savvy of the group, once asked, ''Is it true that every home in America has a robot?'' One boy said he had heard that there were extremely wealthy Americans who made $35,000 a year, every year. And if the fluttering swallows had heard rumors of places beyond their country where life was better -- China, Japan, America, South Korea -- there was no hard evidence to support the claim.
These kids provide a window into the mindset of all the people who are still in North Korea. For a variety of reasons illustrated by this article the North Koreans do not adjust well to South Korean society. A collapse of the North Korean regime would present South Korea with a problem far larger than the problem that West Germany has gone thru in reintegrating with East Germany. The gap in outlooks in life and in understanding of the world is far greater between the two Koreas than it was between the two Germanies.
The problem posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons development program and other Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD) development programs is heightened by the degree of isolation of the North Korean people. It is difficult to know just how much most North Koreans know about the outside world but there are indications that most know very little.
If North Koreans knew just how worse off they were than the rest of the world (especially South Korea and the United States) their support for their own regime would decline markedly and their desire to flee their own country would rise dramatically. With that thought in mind here are some ideas for how the US might be able to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over the people of North Korea.
This all should be done on a massive scale. While it will not by itself bring down the North Korean regime it will reduce the support for the regime (which could be useful if military operations become necessary) and will make it more corruptible as well.
We just spent tens of billions on Iraq and were spending $2-3 billion per year on patrolling the no-fly zone. We ought to be spending $2-3 billion per year to break the NK information monopoly.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 April 28 01:01 AM Korea|