For 60 years, the nation has been walled off from the world. Its people are fed a steady diet of simple-minded propaganda that boils down to: North Korea great. Its leaders divine. The United States is the source of all evil in the world.
A July article in Reason, a magazine geared toward libertarians, adds fresh layers of context of what it means to live in North Korea.
Michael Malice writes:
The laws in North Korea are oppressive, but they aren’t completely ambiguous or arbitrary. They generally boiled down to three principles: 1) Don’t denigrate the Leaders, 2) Don’t denigrate the government, and 3) Don’t acknowledge anything is wrong. It’s this last one that explains so much of the apparent insanity behind so much of what North Koreans say.
In the Vice video, Shane Smith asked why he was the only one eating in a giant banquet hall, only to be told everyone had just left. Absurd? Of course. Inexplicable? Not at all. For to acknowledge that there are no guests can be viewed as a criticism, and criticisms of the status quo mark you as a troublemaker. Troublemakers in North Korea fare even worse than the average citizen.
Besides being conditioned to fib, North Koreans are deliberately starved for information. Like a real-life version of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, Pyongyang for six decades has largely succeeded in keeping its population unaware of world history and current events. There is one state television channel. Reading foreign materials is a felony, and North Korean prisons are some of the most brutal the world has ever seen. Add the regime’s nasty habit of taking three generations of a family to punish a given individual (to “purify the blood”), and you’re left with a population living in woeful, inflicted ignorance. In fact, North Koreans are only permitted to go abroad if they have family members left behind—hostages to be punished should anyone think of defecting.