Why A Revolution in North Korea is Unlikely to Occur

written by kansai2kansas as a "Cause-Effect" topic for his English 101 class in Spring 2011 semester

Unlike the recent uprisings which have recently happened in several Muslim countries in Northern Africa and Middle East, it is futile to wish that a revolution in the North Korea will ever happen. Apart from the lack of unity amongst its people, the citizens of North Korea are also not united by any thread whatsoever. Nobody dares to revolt against Kim Jong-il, the Dear Leader who enjoys foreign lobsters and French wine everyday while his citizens starved to death (Lankov 233). In this piece I will discuss the main causes and roots as to answer why a revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is unlikely to take place.

First of all, in order to even ignite the idea of inciting a revolution, there has to be some sort of unity amongst the North Korean citizens. In most dictatorships today, the primary reason the citizens can unite themselves on an underground form with little fear of persecution is because they have a reliable telecommunication network. Mubarak was toppled by college students who coordinated themselves with Twitter. And the world gets to know about the evils of Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad through videos posted by their populace in Youtube. However, in North Korea internet and mobile phones are practically nonexistent to the common population (Lankov 244). It is against the law for most of the ordinary North Koreans –who number to about 22 million people—to access the broadband or mobile network. The only ones who have free access to the internet and mobile phones in North Korean territory are the elite officials of the sole party in North Korea, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and diplomats from the embassy of the People’s Republic of China, which is the only country in the world that has harmonious ties with North Korea. Even then, the rates for internet access are exorbitant (up to US$2/minute). Hence the people of North Korea are almost entirely blocked out of this 21st century technology.

Secondly, most citizens of North Korea have virtually no knowledge of what the outside world looks like. Despite having the permission to own tellies and radios, the only channel broadcasts allowed in the country are government-run stations, which continuously show movies and newscasts glorifying the self-reliant Juche ideology and the ideals of having a great leader like Kim Jong-il (Butler). Due to the difference between North Korea’s NTSC system and South Korea’s PAL system, it is impossible to receive South Korean channel broadcast in the regions bordering South Korea. The only ones who can ever watch foreign broadcast stations are those in the regions bordering China. Even then, the television stations are constantly checked by government officials. Anyone found watching/listening to foreign broadcasts can risk being sent to prison camp without trials. Therefore, most people of North Korea have no idea that people outside the country are living lives with relative freedom to voice out their opinions and physically emigrate from the country.

In North Korea, there is also an extensive network of WPK loyalists and spies, who are willing to report any dissenting opinions or mere japes against anyone in Kim Jong-il’s administration. Anyone caught voicing such opinions can risk being sent to one of the several labour camps without possibility of trial or worse, get a death penalty (Sang-Hun). Those who report such dissents will be rewarded money and/or protection by the Party, hence a lot of North Koreans can see that it is much better off for them not to rebel against the government. After all, if one makes fun of the government, what are the chances that one of your neighbours will simply let go of it without reporting to the authorities? Moreover, if one gets arrested and sent into the labour camp and yet is able to escape, the Kim Jong-il administration will in turn arrest several of his/her kins with similarly no possibility of trial. It is thus quite evident how risky it is to speak against the government.

In North Korea, Kim il-Sung –the deceased father of the incumbent leader Kim Jong-il— has a God-like status. With an official title of the “Eternal President”, it is compulsory for all citizens to display a picture of Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il side by side on their respective walls (Kristof). This is akin to the near-religious fervour displayed by citizens of Germany towards Adolph Hitler during the Nazi era. Due to the deified status of North Korean leaders, religious freedom is suppressed. Out of a population of 22 million, the true adherents of Christianity and Buddhism –which are the two largest religions in the country— number in the thousands. Even then, not all of them have the freedom to worship as they like, as all of the places of worship are government-monitored. Hence, it is evident that the true “deity” of North Korea for most North Korean people are its leaders. The propaganda even says that Kim Jong-il can control the rain and has the power to make sun rise or set. With your own leader’s family as deities, it struck people’s conscience that they may be monitored from their own souls regardless of physical surveillance. This in turn makes them afraid of rebelling against Kim Jong-il (or members of his Party thereof) at all.

All in all, the economy of North Korea, which is heavily centralised toward the Pyongyang government, is arranged in such a way that whether one gets constant food and electricity supply or not heavily depends on one’s loyalty to the government (North). If one is loyal, one will get a full stomach and constant electricity all year-long. If one is just an ordinary citizen who shows neither extraordinary loyalty nor disloyalty, one will get limited food rations and limited electricity supply (which can be cut off on certain days). Pitiably, this is the best paradigm of a supposedly utopian Stalinist society: direct control of the citizens by the government in their way of life, communication, and financial means. In contrast to the communist regimes of China and Cuba (which have in recent decades opened up to certain outside technologies which symbolise “freedom” such as mobile phone and internet), citizens of North Korea has no freedom at all: no internet, no mobile phone, no passport (with the exception of diplomats), and limited knowledge of the outside world. Hence, it is evident that it is much more beneficial if one shows loyalty to the government. After all, why risk danger for one’s entire family for a labour camp if there is a political system that can be so rewarding when one shows one’s fealty?

Works cited

Butler, Rhett. "North Korea: TRANSPORTATION AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS." Rainforest - Mongabay.com. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Kristof, Nicholas D. "Death Doesn't End Rule of Kim Il Sung, 'Eternal President' - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Lankov, Andrei. "(233) Famine: A Disaster Waiting to Happen." The Korea Times. Web. 10 May 2011. .
Lankov, Andrei. "(244) Surfing Net in North Korea." The Korea Times. Web. 10 May 2011. .

"North Korea Economy." Expedited Visas, Visa Applications, Rush Passport, Passports, Travel. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Sang-Hun, Choe. "An Escapee Tells of Life and Death in North Korea's Labor Camps - The New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 10 May 2011. .

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