North Korea is one of those countries which attract me the most. Why? Because of its mystery and isolation on the international scene. Another thing that encourages me to go there, is the lack of objectivity of the media, including those seemingly reliable. Unfortunately, much of the provided information is true, or not very different from reality. As for the much prefabricated and absurd propaganda information from the regime of Kim Jong-Un, we should not forget that it shows us what it wants us to see. Maybe the local people do not have access to the same pieces of information.
I noticed not so long ago that Facebook gives the opportunity to target North Korea in an advertising campaign. This option is not available anymore, not for me anyway. If my memory is correct, Facebook estimates that I can reach 172 users from this country. I knew that about one hundred people had legal and unlimited access to the World Wide Web so I decided to conduct an experiment. I wrote a rather friendly message in English and targeted my posts at the North Korean elites. Nobody sent me any answer. What a pity! I could have expected that and I knew that I did not have many chances of getting in touch with anybody from that country. I would like to have the possibility to exchange some emails with someone from this isolated state. If I were invited to a sightseeing tour by a local news contact, I would accept the invitation very readily even if I knew very well that the tourists might only see the places that the regime wants them to see. Some Chinese travel agencies offer a possibility of choosing this kind of „holidays”. It is possible to go there by train or to choose a slightly riskier option: to fly to Pyongyang by a Tupolev. American citizens have no choice. They are not allowed to take a train to North Korea. Moreover, the authorities of the United States have decided to ban their citizens from traveling to this country starting September 1st, 2017. Air Koryo has, of course, a very bad reputation as far as security is concerned but I do not remember any plane crash or accident to have ever taken place. Air China also gives a possibility to go to Pyongyang but this connection is often cancelled when the weather conditions are bad. Air Koryo proposes some flights from Russia, as well, but only from Vladivostok. To those who have a choice, I highly recommend the land route because it is possible to see many things from the train window. Visiting North Korea is very expensive. There are two kinds of excursions: a group trip or an individual journey. If you decide to choose the individual tour, the authorities will „take so much care” of you that they will give you two „guides” in your native language. The task of these „guardians” is not only to keep an eye on their guest but also to control each other. The only foreigners who may freely walk and travel in Pyongyang are workers of all diplomatic services and those who work for several international organizations in North Korea. However, if they want to leave the capital, they also need to have a permission and a „guide”, who is often chosen from among the available drivers. All these restrictions make a potential exploration of this interesting country almost impossible. You will have to wait long before the regime gives you authorisation to visit North Korea on your own and with our own interpreter. I do not see any other possibility to really explore this country. I am sure that if I had the possibility to do so, I would soon find out that a lot of information about The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is no longer true or manipulated.
Currently, I do not recommend visiting there to anybody, not even through a reputable travel agency. The recent (and widely covered) death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who had been imprisoned for a dozen of months in a North Korean camp is a proof that going to Pyongyang might be dangerous. His only mistake was „trying to steal an official transparent”. Otto Warmbier flew to North Korea with friendly intentions. This murdered by the regime student was an open-minded man, who was just curious about the world. I guess that if I went to North Korea it would be riskier than for an „ordinary” tourist because of my minimal political and journalistic activity and my anti-communist attitude. Maybe I would not get a visa and even If I was given one, I would probably have a right to more „protectiveness” than other people. Even worse, the authorities of this country are totally unpredictable in their behaviour, even towards those who bring them precious and so much needed currencies. It is not normal. It is completely crazy.
How was North Korea created? The country appeared on the map after World War II. After liberation from the Japanese occupation, the north of the Korean Peninsula went under the Soviet influence zone and the south fell under the American influence. The Russians in the north victimized the country’s patriotic and right-wing powers of the country and the Americans in the south supressed the communist forces. As agreed during the Moscow Conference, the Koreans were allowed to choose their authorities in a democratic way. Nevertheless, neither of the two parties could reach an agreement and each party organized its own elections. The Republic of Korea was promulgated in Seoul in August 1948. The answer of Kim Il-Sung was the proclamation of independence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the beginning, both states were totalitarian. However, the southern part of the peninsula became democratic after the division. The North Korean army entered the area of South Korea on June 25th, 1950. The result was a bloody war between the two countries. The South was supported by the United States and the international forces of the United Nations. The North was supported by the People’s Republic of China just after the communists won the domestic war. The Soviet Union also sent its soldiers. The authorities of unsovereign Polish People’s Republic offered some medical care. North Korea is right about one thing. The war between the southern and the northern part of the peninsula in the beginning of the fifties absorbed the lives of not only hundreds of thousands of soldiers, especially in the north, but also those of the civil population. Before the war, both Koreas were inhabited by thirty million people. Around two and a half million of civilians were killed, so more than 10 % of the population died, including the soldiers. Among the factors of a such a number of victims was heavy American bombing on the land of North Korea. This fact makes it easier to understand why the authorities of North Korea so much hate the United States, let alone why they have no desire to be dominated by them. The Korean War ended on July 27th, 1953 by an armistice. Peace and armistice are not the same conceptions. Officially both countries are still at war. The reconstruction of both Koreas required enormous effort similar to the effort put into the reconstruction of Warsaw destroyed by the Germans with the authorization of the Soviet Union. The red plague was supposed to liberate us from the black death as quickly as possible but Joseph Stalin wanted the courageous Polish fighters to be killed to make Poland nothing but a satellite state. Going back to the Korean question, both countries were very poor. The gross domestic product per capita in South Korea was lower than that of Somalia. Its economy became stronger than the North Korean one only many years later when the country transformed itself into one of the Asian Tigers. Nowadays, the economy and the level of life of both Koreas are incomparable, in favour of South Korea, of course.
What does the present North Korea really look like? Many journalists mention two North Koreas: one of them is available only to the elites and the rest of the country is plagued by poverty, starvation and concentration camps. If you ask me, there are even four North Koreas. The first one is totally fake. Everything is just theatrical art for external propaganda. The authorities go so far as to place people on the train station on the days when there are no other connections than an arrival of a train from China. There is also a hospital with fake patients in Pyongyang. They look so healthy that they cannot act as genuinely sick people. Scheduled visits to local families are also theatrical. Nothing is left to be accidental though there are some mistakes, such as the presence of an unplugged computer in a „typical” North Korean apartment. The second North Korea is the lifestyle of the elites who live in Pyongyang. In North Korea, every citizen has a folder describing his or her history, especially the part showing their loyalty to the regime. There are three classes of loyalty: the friendly one, the neutral one and the enemy one. Each of these classes is divided into subclasses. There are fifty-one of them in total. The most loyal citizens are called „tomatoes” because of the red colour of this vegetable. The place of residence of each North Korean is dependent on his or her class, so the elites of this country live in Pyongyang. Only those citizens who are considered most loyal have the right to live on a decent level of life and even enjoy some luxury. It is not possible to travel inside the country without an internal passport and a special authorisation so the North Koreans cannot travel easily in their own country. The third North Korea is the one which is not easy to see during a journey in this country. Nevertheless, there is some information about it: the lifestyle in the countryside, forced child labour in the field, black markets or the technological backwardness. The fourth one is the darkest and the most mysterious one: the prisons and the concentration camps. It is difficult to estimate the exact and total number of prisoners. Some sources quote one hundred thousand, others increase this number to two hundred thousand. The detention conditions of these people are impossible to describe. Some fugitives are living proofs of the existence of these camps. Unfortunately, a potential escape or being released is not in the cards for most of them and therefore we have so little information about them. The truth is that we hardly know anything about them. This total isolation indicates that the life inside must be a tragedy and death is often salvation after a long time of suffering. I once read a torturer’s declaration. He decided to leave his country when he opened his eyes. He mentioned the gasification of one family. He was surprised that the parents tried to save their children at their own cost because he did not expect any human reaction from „subhumans” who „threatened their own Nation”. He had no remorse. He explained that he had been brainwashed so he was not aware of what he was doing. He also justified himself that he only executed the orders. Many Germans had the same explanation after the Second World War. Unfortunately, many sources indicate that there are also some medical experiments on the prisoners in the camps and many tortures, of course. Those concentration camps exist in North Korea. I am 100 % sure of that. There is some evidence of that. Nevertheless, it is not possible to check how cruel they are because the regime does not agree to let in any inspectors. The most pessimistic versions indicate that these camps are even worse than the German death camps during the period of Adolf Hitler’s regime, or that they are at least comparable. Another sad question is the starvation of the population. There are some regions where the authorities do not send enough food even if they have a lot of it because people who live there are considered enemies of the regime. It is very difficult for frightened, isolated and weakened citizens to organise a resistance movement to abolish the present regime of North Korea. As for the elites who have enough food and who have the right to an easy life, they have no interest in any revolution.
With such cruelty of a regime that almost subjugates its own citizens, there is one important ethical question: is traveling to North Korea and desiring to establish contacts with people from the present regime but a bad attitude? Erich Maria Remarque, a German writer and a veteran of the First World War said: „The less a person knows, the easier it is for him or for her to live. Knowledge gives freedom but makes you unhappy.” It is not only North Korea that is a criminal country, it is also the United States, the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, Poland, but in a slightly different way: legal late abortions of up to 24-week-old children, or, as some people prefer, 24-week-old foetuses. There is some anaesthesia only for those women who decide to abort. In case of the United States, in many states, women do not need any justification. In Great Britain, with the exclusion of Northern Ireland, a woman is entitled to a late abortion for such reasons as difficult social conditions, so the British government, instead of offering help, proposes the possibility of killing her own child. In Poland, despite rigorous regulations, killing children or foetuses at the same level of development is legal if there is a suspicion of, for instance, trisomy 21. It is a kind of eugenics. There was a sick girl who survived abortion in a hospital in Wrocław in 2014. She died a few days later. The instance was covered by the media. There are many people who live with trisomy 21 and they can live very happy lives. The only reason why they can be problematic is because they need a little more care. Many mothers decide to kill their own babies for their own comfort even though they can give them up for adoption. Currently, medical technology can help premature babies survive at a very early stage of development. It refutes the most absurd argument of the radical feminists who claim that a child becomes a child only when it can survive outside the body of his mother. We may boldly say the abortions of these children, or foetuses, as some people prefer to call them, are nothing but ordinary murders. Why am I referring to late abortions in a dissertation about North Korea? There is a lot of ill in the world and it is accepted by many people. If there is nothing wrong with going to London or New York and shaking the hand of a doctor or that of a mother who killed her own baby, I do not see why I should have any problem with the North Korean criminals? It does not matter if it is done in white gloves or not. A murderer is a murderer. Period. Sometimes it is good to shake the hand of a murderer. In the case of North Korea, it is possible to open a dialogue only with the strict elites of this regime because the rest of the population do not have access to the Internet and when people visits the country, they only say what the authorities oblige them to say. There are a lot of people who live next to the Chinese border and they also know what the Internet looks like, but I prefer not to start a correspondence with them even if I had the possibility to do so. It is a too much of a risk for them.
I forecast that one day this bloody regime will change. The logical route for the North Korean elites is to choose a gradual transition towards the Chinese model, which is socialism, with the free market economy and some Asian characteristics. It is not a secret that the Chinese communists did not lose anything, what is more, they gained a lot thanks to the transformation. Not only did they get impunity from the previous crimes but also many of them became serious businessmen. The Polish transformation (though it brought democracy) was, in this respect, quite similar, however, with two big differences to our detriment: China did not sell its national assets for dirt-cheap and China is a fully independent and sovereign state. Everybody in Poland knows that there were many scandals of corruption during the privatisations. Even the Belarussians did not make this error. Their banks and their companies were not sold for a penny to big multinational companies or what is also referred to as „the international capital”. As for Poland on the international scene, the Chinese have some facilities for obvious reasons. Such a big country is destined to have an important role in the multipolar world which is in creation. The American hegemony is coming to an end and it could already be history. As far as Poland is concerned, the communist regime also gained a lot during the transformation. Unfortunately, many criminals did not face any consequences for their past crimes. Let us take Stefan Michnik, who is accused of Stalinist crimes. He is the brother of Adam Michnik, the Editor in Chief of „Gazeta Wyborcza”. Many Poles continue to trust him despite his criminal family connections. The North Korean elites will have a hard nut to crack if they choose the path of transformation. It is possible that they will not benefit from the change (the South Korean businessmen can become the new elites of North Korea) and because of the scale of their numerous crimes, it is not excluded that they will have to pay for them. They could also be condemned to death. It is not easy to imagine an iron curtain separating both Koreas within a policy of transformation because even China has commercial and diplomatic relations with South Korea. As far as the reunification of the two Koreas is concerned, there is an open secret. The government of Seoul does not want it too quickly because its consequences could destabilise the whole peninsula. Nearly all the people from the north would go to the south and, to equalize the level of life, the north of a united Korea would need big international help to modernise the communist part of the peninsula. Not only would huge funds be important for this region, but also some new technologies and some know-how would come in handy. However, I still believe that there will be a solution of the problem and some changes will come. Following pragmatism, I would prefer to already have „my own people” in this location, for instance, they would be the first people to get me the authorisation to visit the country by myself. I would also not scorn at establishing any relationships that could become good business contacts in the future. The international sanctions against North Korea are not only ineffective but also evil, even criminal. Unfortunately, the regime of Kim Jong-Un will continue to find a way to buy some new weapons and to develop the nuclear program because a strong army is his priority number one. Everybody knows it. The people who suffer from the embargo are the „lower-ranked” citizens who do not have access to sufficient food, essential medicine or medical equipment. As for the nuclear trials and experiments with the ballistic missiles, I cannot imagine an open conflict between North Korea and the United States because China is protecting North Korea to a certain extent. It is difficult to imagine the government of Beijing allowing the whole Korean Peninsula to fall under the American influence zone, especially as there is some mineral deposit in North Korea. The estimation of their value is several trillions of dollars. Russia is another discreet ally of the Pyongyang regime. There might be other partners, especially commercial partners, like Iran and Egypt. I am convinced that the trade with these countries and the development of capitalism and the free market economy will be the road or is already the road to freedom for most of the country’s population, freedom from hell that is their everyday life. The regime of Kim Jong-Un will not be able to make money, for instance, on his gold fields, without being open to cooperation, because it does not have the technology and the equipment to extract them.
Passing over the draconian regime, North Korea reminds me of the fifties because of questions like how to find a solution to have enough electricity for the current needs of the country. We can see this problem on the satellite pictures where North Korea is invisible only except for a few bright light points. There are some places where there is no electricity at all, in some other parts of the country electricity is only available for two hours a day and even the capital has some big problems with night lighting. It is better to take a flashlight to go out during the evening. Such a backwardness makes a trip to this country not only a journey in space but also a passage to the past or even to another planet. Such enigma as North Korea will surely not happen anytime soon. The regime of Pyongyang also experiences such problems as buying oil and it is the reason why North Korean farmers still use cows to plough the field and not tractors. Gasoline and diesel are sold by kilograms in North Korea. It is curious. One of the consequences of this backwardness in the countryside is a huge problem of the country as far as the feeding of the population is concerned. There is no enough food for the army but the army is also very big. Korean People’s Army is composed by 1 125 000 soldiers and nine and a half million reservists. The total population of North Korea is around twenty-five million people which makes this country the most militarised state per capita in the world. There are not many cars in the capital of North Korea but the government employs some policewomen to manage a nearly non-existent traffic. Ordinary people are not allowed to own a car. The elites do not have the right to have one, either, but some of them have the authorisation to use them for private purposes. The most popular modes of transportation are people’s own legs and bikes. Women cannot use bikes in Pyongyang but they have no problems with that in the peripheries. There is also a form of organized public transport in the capital: buses and trolleybuses. Nevertheless, the trolleybuses cause many problems because of the lack in electricity supplies. Like in Moscow, there is a beautiful monumental metro in Pyongyang. It can also be used as a shelter. As far as the cars are concerned, I have seen a short movie where there were much more cars before, so I am asking myself the question what does it really look like today with this nearly non-existent traffic? There were probably some changes. There are finally some lights put at some crossroads and I once saw an off-road BMW vehicle in one of the videos. It is difficult to deny that the country is developing after seeing these shorts films. There are also some taxis in Pyongyang. Unfortunately, they are only available to the local inhabitants. The places of entertainment are not rare in Pyongyang. There is, for instance, an amusement park, a big ice rink, some bars, restaurants and karaoke bars. A golf field has been established not far away from Pyongyang and there is a ski resort in Masikryong, 200 kilometres away from the capital. These entertainment places are however reserved for the strict elites. A part of Pyongyang, the one which is not destined for the tourists, looks very poor. The official reason of the existence of these small and old houses is the attachment of the old people to their traditional way of life. Despite a certain backwardness, the year 2017 is also recognised in North Korea, or as some people prefer, the year one hundred and six of the Juche calendar based on the year of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, „the Eternal President” who is also called „the Sun of the Nation”.
Even though I will not soon visit North Korea, my fascination with this country pushes me to keep on searching for more and more information about it and I will continue to make international contacts with people who know the subject. I have already visited many websites about North Korea including sources unknown to a larger part of Internet users. I have read some reports of the people who went or lived there. I saw some smiling children in several pictures, as well. They were not smiling because they were obliged to do it. Their happiness was authentic. I saw it in their eyes that these smiles were real. These children did not come from the strict elites. There are many Poles that know North Korea well. Poland is the only country of the European Union where workers or slaves from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are working among others in the ‚Christ’ shipyard. The Polish edition of the economic magazine „Forbes” once glorified Christ for a good management of the cost of their labour force. Nowadays there are not anymore new work permits for North Koreans in Poland for more than one year. The evaluated number of North Koreans working, staying abroad and earning money for themselves, their families and their country is about one hundred thousand. Some sources estimate the number at fifty thousand. Going back to question of the North Korean workers in Poland, the conditions of their work are far from being perfect. I will give you an example from 2014: Chon Kyongsy, a North Korean welder, died during the execution of his duties due to improper equipment and some dangerous practices – said Tomasz Rutkowski, a social labour inspector who examined this case, to the Internet portal VICE. As for the rest of North Korean workers who works in slave conditions, most of them work in the agriculture. A big part of their salaries is charged by an intermediary company owned by the North Korean government. However, the employed workers benefit from these deals because, thanks to their work in Poland, they can eat properly every day and they can transfer some small money, that is big money in North Korea, to their relatives. The privilege of working in Poland is only for few people who had appropriate connections and some family. Unfortunately, the last element is very important because it can be used to blackmail them. If a North Korean worker escapes from his or her place, the consequences of „the treason of the Nation” fall on his or her relatives. The application of collective responsibility is unfortunately a current phenomenon. It is what the fugitives say. Not only can the „criminal” be sent to a concentration camp for committing a „crime against the Nation”, like listening to a foreign radio, but his grandchildren can also be punished. Returning to the subject of North Korean workers, I also read the opinion of the party who hires them. Mrs Kowalska, who was the boss of Amex and Alson, two Polish companies who employed them, argued that North Korean workers were given their salaries in some envelopes and that they drank beer and ate pizza with their Polish colleagues. Nevertheless, I believe more in the theory that claims that they do not have the right to speak too much with other people and that they are isolated after work. They also live in bad conditions. Maybe one day I will go to one of these places myself to see what the truth looks like? The cost of such an „excursion” would be, of course, much cheaper than a trip to North Korea and I could see many things with my own eyes.
One of the most interesting phenomena as North Korea is concerned is how people manage their lives in such difficult conditions? The female soldiers who quarter next to the Chinese border visit the Chinese farmers. They offer sexual services in exchange for food. It is not the only case of prostitution. Many Chinese go to Sinŭiju, a neighbour city of Dandong. North Korea reminds them of their younger days. In many restaurants managed by people from the North Korean secret services there are some separate rooms. The Chinese tourists can go there and „meet” a local woman after eating. Another sad phenomenon is look after virgin women between fourteen and twenty years old to prepare them for giving pleasure to the most important people of the regime.
As for some less controversial private initiatives, the free market and capitalism are developing very well closer to the Chinese border. All the customs and police officers, soldiers and officials are corrupted because they do not earn enough money to have a decent life. It helps the North Korean businessmen to develop small businesses, especially on local black markets, without it, many citizens of North Korea would be dead. I know the importance of the risk of a such activity, so I think that a certain part of the male body of these entrepreneurs are not in iron but in lead. The women who work in the business sector are also very courageous. Regularly small trucks cross the Chinese and North Korean border. Some of them are delivered to North Korean businessmen. Driving them is also very risky. Another good business in North Korea is becoming a real estate agent. There has been a black market of apartments in this country for a short time. The agents are easy to find next to the markets where people buy food and everyday use products. Officially the government gives each family an apartment for free but in practice there are not enough apartments for everybody. Some officials are involved in this business because they play a key role at the check in. In Pyongyang, one in every two North Korean official runs a small business illegally. According to this year’s report of Transparency International, North Korea is the third most corrupted country in the world just after Somalia that is a failed state and South Sudan, a country ravaged by famine and domestic war. Even Syria is less corrupted than North Korea. Nevertheless, there has been a war there for many years. Two of the non-official currencies of corrupting the officials are food and cigarettes. The authorities are aware of the situation but they close their eyes. Kim Jong-Un and the most loyal people to him prefer to focus on the realm of the army and the development of the nuclear project. They also perfectly know that the system that they would like to build cannot work correctly. Another interesting phenomenon is the presence of the Chinese network next to the Chinese border. There are several thousand phone call connections made between the two Koreas daily thanks to the smuggled cell phones. There is also a possibility of transferring some American dollars to an indicated person in North Korea. The money is given into the hand of a Chinese intermediary who transfers it into to the hand of the North Korean smuggler. They share a fifty per cent commission. The North Korean partner corrupts the right people and usually the money is delivered to the indicated person. Sometimes the smuggler takes a picture with his cell phone to proof that the mission is completed. They do the same when people send goods and small trucks to North Korea. Unfortunately, sometimes the money does not go to the right person because of the risk of being caught. American and South Korean movies and TV series are also smuggled and they are very popular. Some sources indicate that Titanic had a very big success but it is now probably out of fashion.
Not only do ordinary citizens „contrive” in North Korea. The local government avoids international sanctions thanks to foreign companies used as a cover-up especially the Chinese ones. The North Korean government has opened some official restaurants in China where it employs its own workers. The regime of Pyongyang exports its own citizens to work abroad, as I mentioned before. Tourism is another source of currencies. The trips are very expensive. From an ethical point of view, I do not personally think that these kinds of „holidays” support the regime. Thanks to the tourists, North Korea is minimally opened and its citizens have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. A big part of this money does not go to the regime, it goes to ordinary people. This money is also reinvested to the tourist sector. Nevertheless, because of the situation with the citizens of United States and many other innocent people condemned to death or hard work, I decidedly dissuade to spend a „holiday” in North Korea, because North Korean „hospitality” has unpredictable faces. Another method of earning money by the regime of Pyongyang is through counterfeiting American dollars and producing nearly pure methamphetamine. Of course, nobody recognizes it officially. There is some information about legal marihuana and its medical use in North Korea in some sources of information. However, this information turned out to be fake.
As for the IT aspect, I found two different sources of information that clearly contradict each other. One of them claims that only about a hundred privileged people has the access to the World Wide Web. North Korea has its ow Internet, a local Internet disconnected from the rest of the world. A majority of North Korean Internet users are intranet users. A part of their websites is also available to us but not all. The number of Internet domains is not very impressive but not all the official North Korean websites are based on the ‚kp’ domain. North Korea has also a reputation to have a several thousand people in its hacker’s army. They steal confidential information from other countries and they hack foreign bank accounts. Not long time ago they „cleaned up” some accounts in a Bengali bank. North Korea also has its own mobile phone network which is limited only to local communications. All conversations are monitored but North Korea is not an exception in this domain. The governments of countries regarded as „free” also record telephone communication of their citizens and they also do it on the excuse of protecting its own people. Of course, in North Korea people have to be a lot more careful about the subject of their conversations.
Another interesting subject is how effective North Korean propaganda to its own citizens is. North Korea has supposedly sent a man to the Sun. Its national soccer team has won the World Cup after three victories: 7-0 against Japan, 4-0 against the United States and 2-0 in the final against China. Of course, the whole world admires North Korea for its incredible achievements, especially for the success in the creation of a socialist paradise. Such a propaganda seems to be unreal and I think the target is not the North Korean citizens but us because the regime wants us to think that North Korea is a completely crazy country. As far as the regime is concerned, I personally believe that there is a strategy in this craziness. People who live next to the Chinese border and the elites of the capital rather know what the external world looks like. I sometimes think of the indoctrination of the inhabitants of very isolated places. How effective is the propaganda on these people? We all know that it is possible to do a lot with the human mind, especially with the minds of very young children. It is the reason why they must target creches and kindergartens with children who are still babies. Their contact with their families is heavily restricted and the official education insists very much on the affection to the „Homeland” and its „Great Leaders” and the hate of the Japanese and the Americans. They are also forced to work for the „Homeland”, for instance, in the agriculture or by keeping public places clean. We all know that it is possible to indoctrinate a human being regardless of his or her natural make-up, we can brainwash a murderer, a terrorist or a „Mother Teresa”. An ideal example is our approach to animals. For many Chinese, there is nothing bad in eating a dog or a cat. Also, for most Polish people eating a „sacred cow” is not a criminal act. Many of us think that our opinions on certain questions or our religion is a choice. The truth is, however, that our beliefs and our vision of the reality are also partly conditioned by our culture and our environment. One of the solutions to discover the scale of the indoctrination of people who live in totally isolated parts of North Korea is to visit them with an interpreter, which is impossible because of the restrictive political conditions. Personally, I think that many of them laugh discreetly at the regime and the rest is a big circus, like, for instance, the hysterical cries after the death of the former president Kim Jong-Il.
Another frequently discussed subject is the rigidity of the sanctions employed by the regime. One of „the biggest crime” is to crumple or fold in half a newspaper, especially if there is a picture of the „Great Leader” also called the „Eternal President” Kim Il-Sung inside. He is also the „Sun of the Nation” and, theoretically, his reign over North Korea continues until today. The North Korean calendar begins at the year of his birth. „The Day of the Sun”, which is the birthday or Kim Il-Sung, is one of the most important national days in North Korea. Shows of his magnitude take place every year on the 15th of April. It is also dangerous if there is a picture inside of one of the two other presidents: the „Beloved and Respected Leader” Kim Jong-Il and the still alive „Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-Un, also called the „Marshal”. I also advise to never forget to salute to one of the numerous monuments of the „Fathers of the Revolution”. The presence at all national days and demonstrations manifesting the power of the North Korean army is also an obligation. No reasonable person stays at home on one of these days even if he or she is sick because the failure to meet this obligation is, of course, sanctioned. Our Polish ultra fans of soccer could learn a lot from the North Koreans. I am typing it with a certain dose of irony, of course. Their card stunts on the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in honour of the „Great Leader” are on a much higher level than the shows of many Polish groups of soccer fans even if they are one of the best in Europe. There is, nevertheless, a big difference. The stadium shows in North Korea are a result of many long weeks, sometimes of many long months. Nobody has the right to make a mistake. Its consequences are much more severe than the displeasure of the friends from a group of ultras. If we talk about fashion, the North Koreans do not have many dilemmas about the choice of their hairstyle. Each hairdresser has a list of the twenty-eight officially allowed hairstyles: ten for men and eighteen for women. Wearing jeans is also forbidden because they are considered a „sign of the American imperialism”. Journalists must be very careful with the spelling of their articles. A few years ago, one of them was executed for a mistake in the name of the president. Listening to a foreign radio, watching the mentioned Titanic or a South Korean soap opera is considered „national treason”. Unfortunately, people who follow any religion are severely persecuted, among others the Christians. According to http://korea-dpr.co/, there is an official association of Christians in North Korea. I even saw some people praying in a church in an album of a person who visited North Korea. However, I regard it as an element of the regime’s propaganda. In practice, having a Bible or other religious scripts or symbols is punishable by death. In 2013 a too brave missionary who came from the United States, Kenneth Bae, made himself many problems by flying to North Korea with some religious tracts in the Korean language. He was firstly condemned to fifteen years of prison but he was released one year and a half later thanks to diplomatic pressures. The national ideology which is almost a religion is the Juche idea. It is imposed on all the North Koreans by the regime. This political doctrine was formulated by the first leader of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is not anymore officially a communist country. Its practices are, by the way, inspired not only by Stalinism. There are also fascists. The North Korean elites are the most extreme racists in the world and the handicapped are eliminated from the society. The Juche ideology comes from communism but it also insists on a very strong army and the capacity to live in autarky. Autarky is unfortunately a tragedy because of a large mountainous area and other problems mentioned before, but North Korea is still refusing an international help and whenever the authorities accept it, the food is sent to black markets. The extent of malnutrition is so big that the unprivileged from North Korea are a few centimetres shorter than the South Koreans who are of the same age. All external interferences are hostile according to the Juche ideology. The top enemies are the United States and Japan and, of course, South Korea, whose elites are officially called „American ass lickers”. China and Russia, to a lesser degree, are the allies of North Korea. This country was given help from other communist countries for a long time and after that North Korea did a lot of business with the Eastern Block. The falling of the Iron Curtain was a tragedy for this country. It is worth reminding that one of cordial Kim Il-Sung’s friends was Wojciech Jaruzelski, the last president of the communist Poland and the first one of the „free” country. His gifts are still exposed in the mausoleum with all other presents received by the „Great Leader”. Joking about the authorities is also, of course, severely punishable. I have already mentioned the theatricality after the death of Kim Jong-Il in 2011. Showing mourning after the loss of the „Beloved and Respected Leader” was, of course, an obligation. Unfortunately, some weak actors were sent to the concentration camps. Listening to foreign music is also „a very serious crime”. It is also better not to sleep during the official meetings. Drinking alcohol is only allowed on the national days. The North Korean beer is very good according to a tourist who visited this country. Nevertheless, it is better for the local people not to drink it because they can receive severe sanctions. Stealing food in prison or in „freedom areas” is also „a heavy crime”. High-ranked people can also find themselves in trouble, for instance, Kim Jong-Un decided to execute the director of a turtles’ farm in 2015 because of bad management, even though the real reason of the problems lied in deficiencies in water and electricity supply. Some ministers were also in serious troubles because of a deviation from „the only right way”. International calls, watching foreign TV series or movies and using the World Wide Web are also, of course, severely repressed. The most common sanctions are public executions and the relegation to concentration camps. In case of public executions, even very young children are obliged to watch them to terrorise and to manipulate them very early. It is a way of sticking fear in their heads and preventing them from showing bravery of „betraying their Homeland” or not showing due respect to the regime. As far as the concentration camps are concerned, this subject is not studied well enough because North Korea refuses international observers to enter and many victims never had the opportunity to escape from there. The fugitives mention inhumane tortures. Unfortunately, the collective responsibility is a practice which is often used in North Korea and three generations of the „criminal” are affected. It is possible to be executed or send to a concentration camp because of an offense committed by the grandfather. Some children are born in the camps and they grow up inside them. Eventually, they spend their lives there without knowing anything about the world outside the camps.
All privates capitalistic and free market initiatives are, of course, repressed. I have mentioned the sanctions for international calls, watching foreign movies or TV series and using the World Wide Web. The scale of these „serious crimes” indicated, however, that the sanctions are not always applied. Maybe there is a sort of arrangement or a principle of Stalinism: „Show me a man, I will find a regulation to execute him.” An example of this was the death sentence of Jang Song-Thaek in 2013. He was Kim Jong-Un’s uncle. According to some sources, he was eaten by starving dogs. The pretext of his execution was „treason of the Nation”. It was, moreover, during the mourning period after the loss of the „Beloved and Respected Leader” Kim Jong-Il which was, of course, „outrageous” and „shameful”. His death is confirmed. The way of the execution was a publicized lie within the information war. Hyon Song-Wol and eleven other singers from her musical group were also executed in 2013. Hyon Song-Wol was Kim Jong-Un’s ex-girlfriend. His father Kim Jong-Il never accepted her. The real cause was probably the jealousy of his wife Ri Sol-Ju. The official reason of this big execution was the diffusion of pornography based on an interpretation of one sentence in a song. Watching and diffusing pornography are two other „serious crimes” in North Korea. Another famous murder was the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam in Malesia in February 2017. He was Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother. This crime was organised by the North Korean secret services. The consequences of this murder were the degradation of the diplomatic relations between both countries.
The approach of the North Korean elites to Western products deserves a separate paragraph. Kim Jong-Un uses a computer with the logo of a bitten apple. His father, Kim Jong-Il, confessed one day that he loved surfing on the Internet. He also imported a big quantity of products, for instance some luxurious cognac and some Swiss cheese. Ri Sol-Ju, Kim Jong-Un’s wife, appreciates Christian Dior a lot. Kim Yo-Jong, the sister of the „Marshal”, really does not like it. She is very traditionalistic and she wears only military North Korean clothes.
Kim Jong-Un does not seem to be a real communist or a hundred per cent adept of the Juche ideology. As I mentioned before, there is a strategy in this craziness. Kim Jong-Un spent a long period of his youth in Switzerland where his family possess two billion American dollars on different bank accounts. This piece of information is not checked, however it seems to be quite real. The young Kim firstly went to a Swiss school using the pseudonym „Pak Chol” and later „Pak Un”. At the beginning, he presented himself as the son of a North Korean driver. Later he pretended to be the son of a diplomat. The teachers of his school never understood why his parents never went to the meetings with him. Kim Jong-Un had an older friend who looked after him in one of these schools and the other students were curious about this. The young Kim loved swimming and playing basketball, he was interested in sport cars and he also liked watching Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies. He invited the American basketball player Denis Rodman to his country several times. In 2014 after some controversial words, the American star had to explain himself in the press among others that his visits were not official but strictly private. Going back to basketball, the rules of this sport in North Korea are not the same as anywhere else because the dictator established his own ones. Kim Jong-Un was not very different from his school mates when he was young. He confided once to one of his friends what his real identity was but he didn’t treat it seriously. Another time he shocked his friends by bawling out his servant only because of a petty offence. They had never seen before anybody to treat another human being this way. Kim Jong-Un learnt English, some French words, especially German and even a local dialect during his life in Switzerland. The former North Korean ambassador in Switzerland Ri Chol was his mentor. He also looked after other members of the North Korean dynasty who really likes this country for well known reasons.
Some political analysts thought there was a chance for democratisation of North Korea when Kim Jong-Un became the new leader because of his youth spent in the West. Unfortunately, the son of Kim Jong-Il is much more radical than his father. We can see an anxiety or even fear when we look at the eyes of Kim Jong-Un in many films and pictures. What are the reasons of that? The authoritarian system in North Korea is probably much more complicated than it seems to be. The generals have certainly a lot of power because they control the army. His rigorous sister and other people have also a lot to say. There is also some Chinese influence on the North or the Korean Peninsula. Some family aspects, are of course, very important. The proof of it was some arguments with the uncle of Kim Jong-Un. He was probably a danger to him as far as the authority and the control of the party and of the country is concerned. According to some sources, he was a partisan of transition and he did a lot of business with China. As I mentioned before, a certain unstoppable opening of the country to the external world could be dramatic for the regime of Pyongyang.
As far as the refugees are concerned, the Chinese authorities send the North Korean fugitives back to their country, which means execution or imprisonment in one of the camps. Their families are also exposed to repression. It is a scandal! Some North Koreans come back to their country because of some remorse which is crazy. I saw a documentary in which a woman made such a decision. Her sister was crying and she could not explain to her that it was a very big mistake. Some unofficial sources indicated that two hundred thousand North Koreans live in constant fear in China. The refugees are not allowed to fly to South Korea until they reach Mongolia or Thailand. After landing in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, they are isolated for several months before starting a new life in their new country because the South Korean authorities check whether they are or are not some Pyongyang’s regime spies. After that, the government gives them the nationality of the country, some financial help and they are invited to go to lessons which teach them everyday activities like how to pay the bills, doing the shopping at a supermarket or how to valid a bus ticket. The refugees also have the opportunity to learn a new profession and even being admitted to the university. Some North Koreans have some difficulty to find their way out in their new world. The possibility of choice is a big problem for them. The authorities „know very well” what needs the citizens have in North Korea. The „Marshal” „takes care” of all of them. The South Korean supermarkets offer a huge choice such as soap, washing products and food. Sometimes the refugees cannot understand why there is a such number of washing products. Unfortunately, they can also become a laughing-stock for the South Koreans. The fugitives are not very rich and their behaviour is sometimes strange. Once people laughed at a North Korean because he tried to pay for his travel not with a bus card but with a banknote. The language also changed during those decades which makes their lives more difficult. People use more military and formal vocabulary in North Korea. Moreover, the South Koreans use many words borrowed from English.
Is life in South Korea and the Western world free anyway? As for me, a slave who escaped from North Korea does not learn to live in a free country but in a country that is enslaved in a different way and on a much smaller scale. The corporate race is not a phenomenon that gives people happiness and satisfaction with their lives. Some people are born in privileged families, for instance the families of big bankers, and others have no other choice but to become cleaners. A charwoman often earns so little that it is very difficult for her to survive. Our current system is something like modern slavery which a big difference: some people live in „gold cages”. During the Roman Empire times, the servants had a guaranteed roof over their heads. Nowadays the mentioned cleaner must support her „cage” by herself. At the same time, a group of privileged financiers has access to cheap credits and very profitable investments. When they get in trouble, sometimes the governments bail them out from the money of the taxes paid by the charwomen. This happened has many times in Europe with the banks considered too big to fail. As for the banks, it is better not to forget that since the adoption of a new regulation in all of the European Union countries, the customers have been denied the right to own a single cent by the law. If they have a positive balance, the banks are nothing but debtors to them and it is a big difference. The European elites anticipated the possibilities of trouble of the next financial institutions. One of the possible solution is to confiscate the money of the people who saved some money. Such a denouement was already tested in the Republic of Cyprus in 2013. All the founds which exceeded a hundred thousand euros in the two biggest banks were overtaxed which was an evident robbery. The confiscation of a part of the people’s wealth was an experiment which showed the authorities how far they may go. Cyprus still has the reputation of being a fiscal paradise and it was also one of the elements which influenced such a decision. The needed amount to save the Cypriot banks was only twenty billion of euros which is pocket money for institutions such the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In the case of Europe, not only is the wealth of many people in danger but so it the free market. To become a freelancer in Poland means to accept a monthly tribute which goes into the account of the ZUS. The translation of „Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych” in English is the „Social Insurance Institution”. Each freelancer must pay it even if he or she pays for the business. Very few businessmen or businesswomen are millionaires. There is a legal solution with limited companies in which there are at least two shareholders and a direction who does not get any salary to avoid the tributes to the ZUS. The direction may pay itself by the resolution of the board. These bonuses are not subject to the social security in Poland. Unfortunately, I suppose this solution will soon be withdrawn. Contrary to what many people think, high taxes are not good for poor people but for the richest ones. People who have more money may pay more taxes than people who start at point zero. It limits the competition on the market so it is also bad for the customers. Such a policy is a denial of the concept of equal opportunities. It is possible that the times when people could start at point zero and become millionaires belong to the past. Another sad thing is the unnecessary bureaucracy. It is so counterproductive that it would be better to send many officials home and to give them the same money as unemployment benefits. They would stop harassing the freelancers and the businessmen and they would not consume any paper anymore, stamps and electricity in any public buildings, which would be better and cheaper for the entire population. Unfortunately, some people think this solution is crazy because the society has taught us from the earliest age that such bureaucracy is something normal. As the economic freedom is concerned, Poland is worse than some African countries. As for me, the Polish people are not a fully free nation similar to the citizens of other countries who are „free”. I have mentioned Poland but Poland is not such a bad country in the European Union. France is much worse, for instance. Opening a company or becoming a freelancer in many Western European countries is not like doing business but a kind of masochism. Another scandal involves the wealthy who are yet not rich enough to have any big influence on the world. They cannot dispose of their own capital in the way they want to. When a customer has two million euros in a bank account and he wants to transfer the money or to allocate it in some asset, he must justify himself at the bank and the bank may refuse to agree to valid the transaction. This is an evident violation of property rights. Some banks are also curious about smaller accounts, for instance, two thousand euros and they ask the customer what he wants to do with such cash money. Unfortunately, the governments take more and more of our rights away and they spy on us more often than before. They use the excuse of fight against terrorism and money laundering. Many scared and manipulated citizens agree with their governments. Our „liberty” is also a fiction but, of course, not as much as in North Korea. If we, as citizens, want to limit the phenomenon of modern slavery in countries considered „free”, the first step is to start being interested in our monetary system based on the fractional-reserve banking. I will probably write about it in another article. I believe that if people become conscious, our sick system will be abolished or gradually reformed. I am rather pacific, so I prefer the second option to a revolution, the effects of which would be unpredictable. As long as the citizens are silent, the process of the modern slavery will progress. People only need a few terrorist attempts to voluntarily accept undressing in front of a police officer or a custom office station. I think our democrats should stop controlling and spying on us. There are some North Korean methods of fighting against terrorism. I suggest that the Western politicians should use them and leave ordinary people alone. Some effective solutions against the terrorists exist but, unfortunately, strong beliefs in the democratic values of Western Europe prevent the governments from applying them. People prefer fighting terrorism with chalk, candles, flowers or by changing they profile picture on Facebook and by lighting the iconic buildings with the colours of the flag of the attacked country. I am convinced that the warriors of the Islamic State are laughing to tears at this. They know, of course, that limiting our freedom and our naive approach to them will not stop them from organising new attacks. Their determination is very strong. Maybe the Western governments are happy with this situation? The attempts usually target not the authorities but ordinary people. As I mentioned before, intimidated citizens resign more easily from their civil and political rights than the people who are not afraid as far as their security is concerned. The authorities have very good pretexts to consider our bank accounts, to overhear our phone calls or to spy on our activity on the Internet thanks to the terrorists. Another proof that shows that our democracy is turning into a joke is an explicit introduction of censorship. It is something that did not exist for a long time. One of the flagrant examples is the interdiction on the pro-life movements in France. Showing the reality of abortion by publishing pictures of aborted children or foetuses is not legal anymore and it is punishable to evoke remorse in women who had an abortion and discourage the ones who want to have them. The indoctrination of the French state persuades that there is nothing bad in this kind of intervention and nobody may contest that. It is interesting who will be next to be censored by the French authorities. Other phenomena that try to restrain our liberty are the imposed „political correctness” and the fight against the so called „hate speech”. These two concepts may be interpreted in many ways. If people stayed passive and as naive as they seem to be nowadays, maybe it would be possible to put a chip under their skin of the hand of each citizen as it is mentioned in some theories of conspiracy? The authorities will, of course, propose fight against terrorism and for our security. Another reason to introduce the RFID chips may also be our „comfort”. A chip hooked in the hand can be used to open the door of a home or a flat, to pay in the shops, to connect to its bank account and some personal data to identify each citizen or his medical history can also be recorder on it. It is also possible to add a GPS transmitter. In the long term, the RFID chips may be used in many abuses and to enslave the whole masses of people. There is, fortunately, a black market in North Korea. There is also an „informal economy” in our „free” countries. This phenomenon is caused by an exaggerated fiscalism and some crazy regulations. Sometimes I am a pessimist. I see during these moments that one of the possible scenarios of the future may be the introduction of the mentioned system that will not make us free but change us into some „human livestock” like animals bred for food. Unfortunately, not only are the authorities of North Korea messes up and not is only their population brainwashed by manipulated information. There are many people with „washed brains” in the „free countries”, as well, and they are not aware of it. Fashion, marketing and social engineering make miracles. In the economic vocabulary, nobody speaks about the education of people. The term „production of qualified labour power” is often used. It is one of the examples in which instrumental way the political and the economic powers consider people, especially the banks and the big concerns. Their main goal is not to make us happy but to make us serve them for the rest of our lives and to make them richer at our expense. I can see a greater evil in the investment banks and the „international capital” than in the politicians who are designated to be the source of many problems. Money has no heart and it is so influent that the politicians have many limitations to change anything. Money is not the key element but the people and the institutions who have the right to print it electronically. Nowadays money is not anymore coins and banknotes but bank accountant records. The politicians are thus only some their bosses’ puppets in many countries of the world.
At the end of this long dissertation, I will add my conclusions about socialism. The introduction of the real socialism was not possible even in North Korea. Its example is a proof that this system cannot work in practice despite such big efforts. Capitalism and the free market economy are natural human tendencies. They cannot be banned by any regulation. So is poverty. The radical socialists and communists will probably sooner change the water current in the rivers than completely destroy the innate entrepreneurship of many people.
Lastly, I will again insist on an important subject. The Chinese authorities should no longer send the North Korean refugees back to their country. Any pressure should be exerted on this question but there are not many governments who want to argue with their key commercial partner and their possible lender of money. If somebody has a good idea on this subject, I would like him or her to write a suggestion in the comments section or to send me a private message.
Author of the picture: Mihaela Noroc
Link to her website: http://theatlasofbeauty.com/
My comments on this picture: This is a modern part of Pyongyang, which is reserved to the elites, or, as I call them, the second North Korea. The woman in this photo looks happy and beautiful. We can also see numerous cars in the background. I chose this picture because of some optimism. I hope one day the entire North Korea will look like this. Even the Roman Empire fell, so it is logical that the regime of Pyongyang will not be eternal, either, so we may just have to be patient and keep our fingers crossed for the prisoners and less privileged citizens who live in that country.
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