“You’d better watch out, you’d better cry. You’d better pout, I’m telling you why: North Korea is punishing insincere mourners” – The Huffington Post
According to the Daily NK – a South Korea publication opposing to North Korea, apparently, the government decided to punish anyone who either did not participate in the gatherings to mourn the death of Supreme leader Kim Jong Il, or “did participate but did not cry and did not seem genuine”. Imagine yourself being arrested and sent to labor-training camp for 6 months due to coming off as insincere enough or not mourning enough. Daily NK can be biased since it is South Korea-based, but believe it or not, anything can happen in North Korea
Speaking of globalization, people say foreign investment, unrestricted flows of goods and services, less unemployment, all of which lead to an increase in GDP; others also see inhuman labor practices, exploitative working conditions and low wages. Yet, it is impossible to deny its importance concerning the economic development of nations. With regards to the matter of globalization, North Korea, however, is an extreme case. Currently under the leadership of Kim Il Sung, North Korea is the most isolated and least globalized country in the world, also famous for its absolute rejection of foreign investment and discouragement of foreigner visits. Is North Korea government trying to protect the rights of its citizens by refusing to be influenced by other countries? Or does this anti-globalization tendency actually mean the breach of human rights?
Globalization or not, let’s take a look at both Koreas. In 1953, at the end of Korean War, both nations were equally poor, third world dictatorships. What happened afterwards? South Korea chose the road of industrialization, with cheap labor workforces to attract investment from foreign companies. By 1987, dictatorship was gone in South Korea due to the positive influence of globalization. Economics rapidly improved; educations, standard of livings gradually turned to a fresh page. North Korea went the opposite direction with its isolation and self-dependence policies. Since then, its citizens have been suffering from extreme shortage of powers, manufactured goods, prolonged malnutrition and poor living conditions. The only escape from starvation has been large-scale international food aid deliveries. Massive economic inefficiency and extremely political corruption have always been a huge issue. The closet to globalization they have come to is exporting military arms, weapons, drugs and human trafficking. Looking at the CIA’s factbook, South Korea has a GDP per capita of $30,200 (45th in the world) while North Korea settles for $1,800 (195th in the world) in 2011. The daily energy consumption of North Korea is less than that of a medium-sized South Korean town.
No matter how we look at the issue, we cannot help but wondering how North Korean citizens feel about the way their government has been treating them. Do human rights exist in their society? Or are they completely blind to the fact that under this regime, they are suffering from severe deprivation of human rights? Without globalization, the issue of human rights in North Korea “is extremely difficult to assess due to the secretive and closed nature of the country”. All activities in the country are fully controlled by the government; whoever dares to criticize will be detained. The government claimed that due to the country’s socialist nature , there has never been any human right issue and citizens are fully faithful to the system. Despite intervention from NGOs and other countries, the government even alleged that “those who make allegations about human rights in the country are interfering in the country’s internal affairs and trying to force down their values”. How true is this claim?
Obviously, the fact that citizens are being punished severely for “not being sincere enough” speaks something about the extent of their freedom of expression. Yet, freedom of speech is one thing; the right to live is another story. Until now, there has not been any exact statistic on the number of North Korean people who have starved to death. Human rights do not only mean social and political freedom; the most basic human right is the right to living, or the right to feed, clothe and support themselves in order to survive. Can they even dream of having freedom of speech when they are hardly able to survive? How can North Korean citizens be expected to have other rights if they are barely even granted with the right to live in their own society?
North Korea is certainly the only extreme case of anti-globalization. Looking at its current state, it is reasonable to say that despite the negative effects in terms of bad labor practices and exploitation, there really is no alternative to globalization with regards to a country’s growth. The key to make it work better is to find a solution to mitigate these negative sides of globalization.
After all, one North Korea is more than enough.