In light of the precarious state of the Korean peninsula following the death of the tyrannical North Korean dictator (and exceptional golf player) Kim Jong Il, The Propagandist once again presents this award-winning and very relevant essay on how not to end the horror emanating from Pyongyang.
After a two year hiatus on rice aid to North Korea, Seoul has resumed shipments at the North’s request, citing devastating floods and a poor crop season. Despite the Cheonan attack last March which effectively froze North-South relations, a recent poll in the Joong-Ang Daily shows that a large majority of South Koreans support rice aid shipments to the North. Although such public sentiment is understandable, history has shown it is a horribly misguided policy.
When rice aid to North Korea began during the famine of 1998, Seoul saw their sphere of influence widen, hoping to gradually reform the North Korean government. Over the past decade, approximately 300,000 to 500,000 tons of rice per year has produced an increasingly belligerent nuclear program, growing naval conflicts, revived military organs and a consolidation...More >>
First, it's unlikely that its being circulated domestically. Internal propaganda in North Korea is almost never the same as the external propaganda that the KCNA publishes to the world.
Secondly, on the off chance that it is being publicized inside the country, it wouldn't really be all that sensational. As early as the mid-1990s, people started to find out, and now its established fact known by most North Korean citizens, that material life in China is better than in the DPRK. However, North Korea has never prioritized the improvement of material conditions as being a vital part of its ideology or justification for legitimacy.
The mistake journalists commonly make is assuming that the DPRK was anything like the Communist Bloc in ideology, and that the inflow of goods made in capitalist societies will be any kind of a tipping point. It won't.
Thirdly, its also possible that such an index is being circulated in China as a somewhat less than tacit acknowledgement that North Korea would like to follow in the steps...More >>
Egypt has been set on fire, but in Pyongyang it’s still business as usual. An odd comparison, but consider this: an earnest, bilateral relationship that was cemented during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which saw North Korea supply strategies, pilots, and fighter jets to Egypt, blossomed into highly profitable trade between the two countries that continues to this day. It wasn’t long after the war that Egypt’s air force commander, Chief Mubarak, scratched Kim Il Sung’s back with a fat SCUD missile, simultaneously opening the Middle East for thirty years of missile trade and hard currency imports with the DPRK.
With such excessive and enabling ties, it’s quizzical that Pyongyang remains in business with Cairo after the fall of Mubarak’s empire, and yet so it is. The largest employer in Egypt, Orascom Group, is also still heavily entrenched in North Korea’s economy. Although Orascom gained a degree of notoriety in 2008 when it resumed construction of Pyongyang’s failed monstrosity, it is Orascom’s investment in telecommunications that may represent the next generation of North...More >>
Historian Aleks Shtromas identifies a key element in common between various regimes that commit mass atrocities, writing that such regimes often tote ideologies that declare “a possession of absolute and/or finite truth and wisdom.” Despite this commonality, many dictatorships have become synonymous with certain flavors of oppression that it specializes particularly well in - systematic rape, enslavement, genocide, mass starvation, death squads, torture, child soldiers.
Indeed, officially orchestrated acts of brutality reveal underlying parts of a regime’s core ideology: Stalin’s war against Ukrainian peasant culture was the end result of his utopian agricultural experiment to collectivize land; Hitler’s nationalist policy of Lebensraumfor German colonists could only become a reality with the elimination of the people who lived in Poland.
Not to be outdone, North Korea follows its own internal logic of madness with its policy of inter-generational collective punishment - known as yongoje- which dominates all aspects of North Korean life.
Any individual crime leads to immediate discrimination against the perpetrator’s entire family, especially the worst crime of all: lack of fealty...More >>
When The Propagandist started an essay contest, we had no idea just how well it was going to go. We got a ton of hard-hitting, eloquent articles on themes like spreading democracy, opposing dictatorships and exposing political correct shills for autocrats and terrorists.
We loved them. Our readers loved them. And while we wouldn't take credit for the pro-democracy revolutions sweeping the Middle East today, we're sure our propaganda didn't hurt.
Out of over 25 essays submitted, the judge's points tallies for the top finalists were extremely close. Without further ado, here is our list of runner-ups:
Imagine you are wearing an international veil of ignorance over your head, and a country is described to you like so: marital rape is legal, female prostitution accounts for two percent of the national GDP, it has one of the lowest women’s workforce participation rates in the world, and the highest gender wage gap amongst OECD countries. Furthermore, this country listed 68th out of 100 countries measured in the UN’s Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), ranking with other paragons of women’s rights like the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh and Yemen.
It is shocking that any country with a first world standard of living could measure so abysmally low for gender parity. Yet South Korea defines this paradox of modernity co-existing with a polarizing social malaise of male entitlement. Indeed, the South Korean gender gap has produced severe consequences for the nation’s realpolitik.
For example, South Korea’s absurdly low standard of childcare and maternity-leave laws make it nearly impossible for women to have both children and a career, contributing to Korea’s record low birth rate. This will no...More >>
It will not be happening anytime soon. In this instance, it’ll take more than artillery fire from the cranky and infantile North to scrap any armistice agreement and unleash the dogs of war. South Koreans have long dealt with the volatility of its borders, especially in the highly disputed waters and the surrounding islands. For most South Koreans, its business as usual while their government answers back to the North’s shelling. The public is very much taking the attitude that it always blows over.
However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the degree of escalation caused by North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. For the first time since the Korean war, a large group of South Korean civilians were attacked by North Korea. Had the artillery fire killed hundreds instead of injuring them, the National Assembly in Seoul would likely be having a different conversation.
Yet, the full engagement of a military confrontation remains elusive. President Lee and his predecessors have all had to do a cost-benefit analysis of engaging in war with North...More >>
The Hanawon Resettlement Center in Seoul is marking a milestone this year. Since the end of the Korean war, twenty thousand North Korean refugees have escaped from one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and resettled in the peninsula’s liberal, democratic south. The Center receives all North Korean refugees, and places them in special language, culture, and education programs so that they can successfully integrate into society. Although the refugee numbers are impressive, the Hanawon Center also knows the bitter truth: most who manage to escape from ‘worker’s paradise’ end up caught in a Chinese finger trap, and only the lucky few ever make it to South Korea.
With the west and east cut off by coastline and the south heavily guarded along the DMZ, the Russian-Chinese corridor is all that remains as a passage for escape. Although some refugees have made it to the South Korean Consulate in Vladivostok, the small Russian border is often heavily guarded on both sides, leaving only the expansive Chinese border. With maps long ago classified as military secrets by...More >>
This year, the Toronto International Film Festival conspicuously under-delivered on what was so prominent last year: dyspeptic protest. The Toronto Group has yet to congregate on the sidelines of the red carpet to issue protest letters carrying banal slogans amongst prominent activists, filmmakers and intellectuals. Indeed, a dearth of vitriol against TIFF’s “City to City” programme selection continues to spoil the expected paroxysms promised by the Toronto Group’s de facto leader, Naomi Klein.
Last year, activists spoke out against the Israeli government’s alleged use of art to whitewash its actions while quizzically emphasizing that the protests had nothing to do with the films. Despite TIFF programmer Cameron Bailey’s insistence that the Israeli government was not involved with Tel Aviv’s spotlight for the programme, accusations of celebrating colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid reached a fever pitch.
So where’s the consistency? In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! in 2009, Klein assured listeners that protesting Israel at TIFF was no exception, saying that “If this were any other country, it would be so obvious that this was a political decision...More >>
This summer, Pyongyang unveiled a bronze statue of "comrade commander" Kim Jong-il for the first time in North Korea. The event was announced with much fanfare by Gen. Kim Jong-gak, the vice director of the People’s Army’s General Political Bureau.
The publicity generated by the government evoke memories of Kim Jong-il’s ascent to power when he launched a statue campaign for his father, Kim Il Sung, some sixteen years ago. Many in Pyongyang recognize the significance of the newly anointed statue. Speculation is growing about when Kim Jong-il’s third youngest son, Kim Jong-un, will inherit the Juche ‘republic.’
But there are places in North Korea where Koreans are not as jubilant. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children reside in one of any number of concentration camps that litter the countryside where they are tortured, experimented on, and re-educated in a ‘revolutionizing zone.’ Others do forced labor and eventually starve to death in the ‘total control zone’ where they serve life sentences.
North Korean refugee Shin Dong Hyok, who was born in and...More >>