Last week’s nuclear antics in North Korea sent the worlds media into a panicked frenzy as news reached of it’s successful detonation of a hydrogen bomb. Despite the KCNA’s best efforts to reassure us all that the latest test was just a little ‘trial-run’ for ‘self-defence’ and ‘absolutely nothing to worry about’, I can’t say that we were entirely convinced. Whilst Korea dropped the H-bomb and I watched everyone else simultaneously open-mouthed dropping the F-bomb, I was left wondering why and how the story had managed to squeeze its way into headline news in the first place.
You see, the democratic peoples republic of Korea, despite having a burgeoning population of almost 25 million inhabitants, seems to have been doing an excellent job of ‘laying low’ in recent years when it comes to press coverage. This isn’t however, as you may have been lead to believe, due to a lack of news-worthy antics.
To the contrary, North Korea and its leader have had quite the busy schedule over the past 5 years, since it’s dictator rose to power. There was the attempted satellite into orbit failure, then a second more successful run. A fall-out with BFF’s china over exportation of biological and chemical items. The execution of Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Sung-taek over fears he may have attempted to overthrow the state, despite being the ripe old age of 67 and walking with what looked like a dodgy hip-replacement. Then there was lots of handshaking and smiling for photos with Political figures from around the world, followed by numerous violations of UN resolutions regarding the firing of missiles. All of this and no wonder Kim’s looking a bit rough around the edges these days, he’s probably only getting about 2 hours worth of kip.
Yet, despite it’s leaders’ constant sabotaging of international relations, creating nuclear weapons for ‘experimental purposes’ and secretly killing off anyone who threatens to stand in his way, there is another reason why North Korea resonates so much with me.
Due to Kim’s totalitarian leadership, hundreds and thousands of North Koreans face constant violations of human rights on a daily basis. Not only are they repressed from freedom of expression or attempting to assert their basic rights as human beings but they are systematically forced to show approbation for the very system that oppresses them. Political opposition, religious freedom and Independent media are all banned from within the country. Those who chose not to abide by these onerous laws and speak out against Kim and his strict regime face imprisonment or death.
Both children and adults have been forcefully enslaved in the countries political prison camps without any attempt at a fair trial, generally owing to the fact that the majority of them have not committed any real crime. Conditions within these prisons and detention facilities are reported to be similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps throughout world war two. Malnourishment is rife, prisoners are systematically overworked and torture is routinely used as a method of fear mongering and control. And it’s not just prisoners who suffer, the country as a whole has seen a steady decline of food, medicine and healthcare over recent years.
So why is the media brushing over the severe humanitarian crisis going on within the confides of North Korea’s borders?
If you turn on your TV today you’ll see story after story highlighting the continuous plight of Syrian refugees caught up in the on-going conflict between the Middle-east. You’ll see video footage of thousands upon thousands of asylum seekers making the long, treacherous journey to safer lands, seamlessly accompanied by emotional slow-paced music. As if listening to a string quartet whilst you absorb those sad images will somehow emphasise the calamity of the situation ten times more.
Every now and then you’ll see a photo of a young child washed-up on the beach and you’ll feel so overcome with emotion that you’ll start lobbying your local MP to invade Syria and obliterate ISIS so that you don’t have to see any more images like that again. In the past month, several videos have re-appeared in which we’re shown starving children in Madaya, telling us that they haven’t eaten in weeks and again we’re sub-consciously made to form an emotional attachment to the issue. In turn this throws into a vicious cycle of regret and guilt followed by support to the Western government and its regime which tells us it wants to help those innocent people when in actual fact its half the reason they’re in this terrible position in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t empathise with or care about those innocent Syrian refugees. To the contrary, I do everything in my power to help them in any way I can and of course, I’ll still sit and watch these videos and cry about how cruel the world is, before declaring we should blow ISIS up. But the fact of it is, we’re being shown that footage for a reason. That reason being that the more we are exposed to those heartbreaking and inhumane images the more likely we are to believe we’re doing the right thing by carrying out air strikes in Syria and thus eliminating ISIS.
But why don’t we see those same images of starving, dying children from North Korea?
Well, for starters, unlike our numerous wars in the middle east, a large scale war in North Korea wouldn’t reap any financial rewards for the West, in fact it would likely leave us in a huge(r) financial deficit. Not only would we be paying the price of sending hundreds and thousands of our heavily armed military personal over to invade the country, but we’d be sending them over with some rather ‘heavy duty’ weaponry too and, unsurprisingly, that stuff doesn’t come cheap. The average cost of equipping a U.S soldier is $17,500 whilst a B-2 stealth bomber costs around $1.01 billion. Not to mention the fact that we’d be responsible for handling the clean up operation after, further adding to an expense we just cannot afford.
Then there’s the whole trade situation. China manufactures a large percentage of American and UK goods and, despite growing tensions between themselves and North Korea, they remain allies. Put simply, to fall out with North Korea is to fall out with China and for the sake of Western trade economy, thats something we really do not want to do if we still want to be able to buy our £1 socks from Primark.
Did I mention theres no oil in North Korea? Why on earth would the west want to invade a country under the pretence of saving it’s hundreds and thousands of enslaved, malnourished victims when we can’t infiltrate its economy or steal its oil at the end of it?
Or could it be that the West is scared of North Korea?
With it’s disenfranchised populous, growing stock of powerful nuclear weaponry and a 1 million strong army, could it be that the West are so utterly terrified of North Korea that it choses instead to play-down the current humanitarian disaster within the media? The saying ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ springs to mind here.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
All in all, to go to war with North Korea would be a lose-lose situation for the West and it’s allies and so the media does it’s best to cover up the on-going humanitarian crisis so that we, as a general public, don’t feel the need to intervene in any way. Because, believe it or not, we’re quite a soppy bunch really.
To me, it seems as if the West is treating North Korea like a child, lying face-down in the middle of a sweet shop, screaming at the top of it’s lungs in the hope that someone will pick it up and give it the attention it deserves. But instead, we’re all choosing to ignore it in the hope that the screaming will eventually stop. As much as the media may feel it’s doing us a favour by downplaying the atrocities that are taking place in North Korea on a day to day basis, it is in fact co-ercing us into turning a blind eye to the situation which in part, makes us as cruel as it’s leader ourselves.
As a final thought, I want you to ask yourself something. Can we, as a nation really afford not to question a Western government and it’s media that systematically lies to it’s people. A government and it’s media which spoon-fed us false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, leading us blindly into a bloody and unecessary war in which we lost not just the lives of our own people but in which we took the lives of thousands of innocent others. North Korea are producing weapons of mass destruction and they’re not afraid to show us. If the western government cares so much for the safety of it’s people, then it needs to start addressing the biggest threat now.