The Kim Jong Il regime of North Korea, fully exercising its right to extreme paranoia, published a detailed handbook for its citizens to prepare for an upcoming nuclear attack by the United States. Citizens are instructed to dig bunkers, stock them with food (albeit not much as supplies are limited), water, and – most importantly – to bring all portraits, photos, busts, statuettes, and other images of the Dear Leader and the deceased Great Leader into the bunker with them. Cover them with your bodies if you must, when the bombs come, but protect them at all costs!
A satirist would have frantic North Koreans upending drawers to search for that missing Dear Leader key chain that Dad picked up at the convenience store or the plastic dashboard statue of the Great Leader given as a door prize at the last lodge meeting. Mom would be fanning pages of books for any Dear Leader trading cards sacrilegiously stuffed in as bookmarks. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.
You see, outside of the country we simply cannot fathom the depth of control, intensity of the cult of personality, and degree of abject fear imposed by the Kim Jong Il regime on the hapless, oppressed people of North Korea. In the West, especially in America, even post-911, we still live in a protected world. We get upset if restaurant service is tardy. We fume at the grocer if we don’t have unlimited choices of cereal, peanut butter, fresh vegetables and fruits, and exactly the cut and quantity of meat that we need for that dinner party. We assume that a gas station will be conveniently located nearby when we run short, that we can see a physician when we get sick, and that any meds he prescribes will be available at one of several drug outlets.
We want unlimited choices on the radio, television, and print media. We are vocally critical of the government, especially on foreign policy. After all, we know in our hearts that being Secretary of State can’t be that hard, can it? What do they do over there anyway besides serve punch and cookies? Internationally we think that everyone ought to like us – after all, we’re really nice people, aren’t we? Furthermore, we expect that all of these people will share our values, especially the materialistic values. We like having stuff, services, and the good life. And, when given the chance, so do many of our fellow humans around the world. But not all of them.
For some individuals power trumps all. Not simple power that they exercise for a bit then turn over to a successor. Not power that originates from God through the people. But absolute power. Power beyond simple, individual life and death decisions. They crave the power to control masses of human beings, to dictate their life or death, and to decide the fate of nations. Such power is addictive. Mere to maintain stability requires increasingly large doses the way a crack addict wants more and more powerful doses in order to experience the high. This is the kind of power that has been in the grasp of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il since 1945. The power lust characterizes every dictator regardless of political stripe. When they obtain it the mere holding is insufficient to satisfy their demands. They always push the power to the limits and beyond. In so doing they inevitably commit crimes against their own people; crimes against humanity.
Rarely does power come in such large, raw doses as the Kims have experienced in almost six decades of unchallenged rule in North Korea. The world ignores or diminishes North Korea as a backwater, an aberrant state with an eccentric ruler, distant and detached from the daily business of life. But the magnitude of the atrocities committed by Kim Jong Il demands a more penetrating look. Recognize that even the most controlling, heinous dictators in history would envy Kim Jong Il. Even in Stalin’s Soviet Union there existed a dissident movement. In Hitler’s Germany there were many who opposed him, and even some resistance movements. Communications with the outside world, though difficult and limited, were possible. Information flowed in these countries even though much of it was heavily laden with propaganda, distortion, and lie. Not even a little bit of this happens in North Korea.
The oppressed, abused people of North Korea suffer from a dearth of communications that mocks what the world now calls the information age. Take away government controlled radio, press and television and information exchange and North Korea returns instantly to the medieval level: word of mouth and scrawled notes on torn paper. Radios and televisions come with government-approved frequencies locked in. Possession of a radio capable of picking up South Korean, Japanese or other foreign stations is a capital offense as is ownership of a cellular telephone. Some telephones are smuggled in from China. Their owners risk terrible retribution from a state obsessed with absolute control.
Absolute control of information is an essential tool that enables the Kim Jong Il regime to keep the population in lockstep. Since this is axiomatic for all dictatorships, one of the most effective means of undermining a rogue regime is to give its people access to truth, open discussion, and reasonable dissent. Reports from the survivors of the Iron Curtain days in Eastern Europe always include strong endorsements of broadcasts by agencies such as Radio Free Europe, BBC and others. We hear the same from Cuban refugees. One measure of the effectiveness of the broadcasts – and of free flow of information as a threat – is the ferocity and vitriol that dictators direct toward the stations. Watch dictators react: if broadcasts weren’t bothersome, tyrants would ignore them.
We must devise ways to infiltrate information into North Korea. It ought to be a high priority on this Axis of Evil regime. Only the truth will save the poor citizens of North Korea who have considerably less to fear from a contrived rumor of an American attack than they do from an egomaniacal monster who reveres his own graven image more than human life.