A Dictatorship brings to the mind an archaic picture in a world where democratic ideals surpassed all others. Even as we look back into world history, the Second World War marks the triumph of democracy as opposed to the totalitarian military dictatorship of the Nazi Germany. Furthermore, the Cold War between the capitalist US and the erstwhile communist USSR also highlighted the vitality of holding on to what was left of democracy and a multi-polar world order.
North Korea is a Nation muddled between many truths, criticisms and apprehension. The famous case of Otto Warmbier in 2016 invited a lot of inquisitive minds to turn toward this military dictatorship that has a controversial history in terms of nuclear weapons. The case had put a question mark on the extent to which North Korea can go to isolate its propagandist ventures from the rest of the world. More interestingly, it set the tone for a new paradigm of relationship between North Korea and the US; considering the sanctions that the latter had imposed on the former – more so, the ongoing nuclear threat that North Korea poses to the US till date.
In layman’s terms, nearly all dictatorship regimes have one thing in common: a singular rule, which translates to the ‘Workers’ Party of North Korea’ in the case of North Korea. However, there are a lot of factors that set apart the North Korean dictatorship from others.
The very first trace of the North Korean political ideology ‘Juche’ was found in a speech by Kim II-sung in 1955. It is usually translated as ‘self-reliance’. It postulates that by becoming self-reliant and strong, a nation can achieve true Socialism. Even though it contained variants of Marxism-Leninism, it was later demarcated as a separate ideology and many critics consider it a deviation from the mentioned ideologies. It even comes across as a form of ultra-nationalism, according to many.
As an added feature of its distinctiveness, the ‘Juche’ also has religious features and encompasses the older religions like neo-Confucianism and Korean Shamanism. Despite these religious connotations, it’s highly atheistic in nature. This goes on to show the way a comprehensive and unique ideology exists in the modern day North Korea that its citizens must adhere to unquestionably. Its principles are worked through various spheres like defense, diplomacy and economy.
Propaganda is a very common tool used by the regime to keep the citizens brainwashed. The portraits of the two State founders are hung in all the important offices, buildings, trains, hotels, schools, at the Pyongyang airport and even private apartments. A clear indication of the superiority of the political ideology and the importance of its leaders lies in the fact that
according to government minders who accompany visiting tourists and media persons.
The case devastating of Otto Warmbier arose because he had gone to the forbidden floor where tourists weren’t allowed. The floor had many propagandist posters that Warmbier was caught stealing on camera. The very next day, he was arrested by the authorities only to be released as a literal dead body and was resting in his grave a week after his paralyzed arrival in the States.
Apart from the highly developed capital city Pyongyang, there are many others that are less developed and the countryside where the economy is in shambles. Most of the poor citizens are engaged in farming and use traditional methods since more dependence on machinery would mean less labor engagement. There is very little information on the daily life of the North Koreans except that it isn’t devoid of state sponsored propaganda and a tight control on travelling within and outside the Nation.
‘The country is home to more than 25 million people, who from a young age are taught to worship their leaders, including the current Great Leader, Kim Jong Un, as powerful gods. Un has near-total control of the country, and heads up a repressive regime that makes no bones about doing away with political dissidents. And while Kim boasts his great military and nuclear might to the rest of the world, many of his citizens quietly struggle, suffering from malnutrition and poor living conditions.’
One glance at the North Korean history would lead even a novice to piece together how the Nation places an onus upon its nuclear capabilities. It has been put under a plethora of sanctions and yet continues to produce weapons of mass destruction. North Korea backed out from the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty in 2003. The country’s strong affair with nuclear weapons began in the early 1950’s and has resulted in the hyper militarized Korea that we see today. More so, it’s also claimed that the sanctions imposed on North Korea are counter-productive. There have been reports that showcase how these sanctions have a negative impact on the ordinary North Korean citizens.
Very little is known about the ordinary lives of North Koreans. However, it’s likely that under the tight State control, propaganda and the dire economic situation; it isn’t a bed of roses. Another dilemma that an outsider might have after learning about this dictatorship is, why do people still tolerate everything? Even after silencing political prisoners and protestors, how does this repressive Nation not face any backlash? While these wide questions overlook the nitty-gritty’s of real life, the final analysis lies in the fact that all is not that simple.
When an average citizen is fed propaganda from the time they are born, it becomes very hard to decipher what to expect from a Nation. When tributes are paid to the State founders every single day and their portraits are hung as signs of dominance all over the country; it becomes clear that the population isn’t just under a political subjugation but psychological as well. A simple-minded person struggles to earn a chance at survival whereas the elite groups coupled with the Political actors portray their lopsided version of growth. North Korea is a highly advanced nuclear power that has failed phenomenally at its Economic prospects.