You have not known what you are.
You have slumbered upon yourself all your life.
Your eyes have been as much as closed most of the time.
What you have done is already in mockeries.

The mockeries are not you.
Underneath them
And within them,
I see you lurk...

-Walt Whitman


on the other side of the divide: deconstructing north korea

I WAS WATCHING TELEVISION ONE AFTERNOON. it was a documentary from a familiar channel: the national geographic. i have always loved watching from this channel. it makes me realize that there are so many things i have yet to know, to learn. it was a very informative watch. but i have never prepared myself for what i have or for what had unfolded before me while i ate my breakfast one afternoon. i do not know why i still find it disturbing…

the documentary was entitled ‘inside: undercover in north korea’. the national geographic team poses as film-makers to document how a nepalese surgeon operates on a thousand blind patients. in the end, and they were able to make a gripping story of a world we will never dream to live in.

north korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world. no wonder there are very few facts about it that i know. i didn’t even remember that korea is separated from north and south either-the separation that reverberates a dark story till now. my high school social studies professor told me that its capital was pyongyang. besides that, i could not remember anything factual about the country. i love geography as i love the taste of coffee on a rainy day, and i realized my social studies professor didn’t elaborate about that country. now i know why.

north korea is an “intelligence blackhole.” no information from the outside could get inside the country or vice versa. foreign information is banned. there are no cellphones, no internet. written publications are controlled by the state, including radio, television, and other forms of media. imagine watching movies and television, reading books, and listening to music all about north korea (duh?). some of the inhabitants didn’t even know that man had landed on the moon. foreigners, are strictly followed and observed by “minders”, people that sees to it that foreigners won’t do any ‘bad deeds’ while they are in the country. these measures are evidence of the country’s ongoing hostility towards foreigners, especially americans. traveling to other parts of the country requires you to have a permit. only those most loyal leaders to the state travel the country freely. imagine long stretching highways with barely any cars, no nothing. gives me the creeps. Reminds me of resident evil. (hehe!)

it is interesting to know that this country now houses the 4th largest army in the world and a platoon of nuclear warheads. it may be isolated but it doesn’t mean they are technologically inferior. the operations are done in full secrecy and organized execution. now north korea is a threat to world peace and could make itself visible to the rest of the world in the worst way possible.

everything in north korea is not as it seems. it only shows its best face to the world. there was a propaganda made to make south koreans defect into the country. there was a village built in one place of the country with high-class-looking-houses with a towering flagpole-the highest in the world. but beware. the houses are only facades. they maybe good looking but they are hollow on the inside. one movie published is about a family, and how luxurious they live: with extravagant meals, lucrative jobs. everything seemed perfect, but really, it’s quite the opposite.

besides, its political power in warfare, north korea seems to be a very miserable place to live in. a ghost town. people die here and there. thousands of people go blind here due to lack of basic health and medical facilities. cataracts usually develop among elderly people, but here, even children go blind due to malnutrition and poor health care delivery. there are doctors but they remain incompetent because they don’t know how to use the medical equipments: another result of the country’s isolation to any external information. the hospitals didn’t even have electrical power to do surgeries, i.v. bottles are in the form of soda containers. operating room tables are crusted with blood and smells like rotten meat. this health condition is unacceptable to the point that it’s considered inhumane and cruel. there are no stable jobs for the people. there’s nothing the government could offer them but misery.

but escaping, or ‘defecting’ would mean suicide. there are people who are desperately willing to risk their lives to escape, but most are afraid, helpless, or i daresay just brainwashed. the 38th parallel divides the country to north and south. below the 38th parallel, there are troops of the joint american-south korean soldiers to protect the boundary. but the other side of the divide tells another story. above the 38th parallel is the dmz or demilitarized zone. it is guarded by millions of north korean soldiers. it is full of landmines, and an electric barricade that runs along the boundary. anyone who dares to cross or defect through the dmz is good as dead, so refugees prefer the longer boundary in the north to china.

one of the disturbing facts about this is that it feels like it was ‘the holocaust’ all over again. back then, under the rule of adolf hitler, and rise to power of the nazi regime, approximately 22 million jews were slaughtered in concentration camps. in north korea, the families of those who betrayed the country or those who defected are sent to a particular concentration camp in pyongyang. the camp now houses 50,000 people. like that of the concentration camps back in the holocaust, entry to one of these is certain death. when you enter, there’s no coming out, either you die of disease or you’re murdered. this is one of the main reasons why most people are afraid to show the slightest resistance to the state.

few people know that north and south korea are still at war. there was never a peace treaty when the war raged between them years ago. it was considered the longest cease-fire in history. kim il-sung tried to unify the country before, but the americans, who have been fighting the spread of communism had won the south. that’s why north koreans are still hostile to americans because they blame them for having the country divided into north and south, hence, the 38th parallel.

kim jong-il, the country’s god-dictator, has absolute power over the country. i can’t help it but to compare him to the infamous nazi leader, adolf hitler. he has the power to do anything. he never listens to anyone. another, reason why i find this so disturbing is that he is literally worshipped by the people. you must bow and praise him whenever you see a picture of him. no foreigner is allowed to lie infront of any image of him or you get punished or deported out of the country immediately. people cry when they talk about him, saying that he gave them life, saying that without him, they are nothing. even those blind people healed in the surgeries, worshipped him like a true god, bowing and shouting praises. i could actually feel my hairs stand at the sight of it.-people raising their hand in the air, screaming the name of the dictator at the top of their lungs and saying “we praise you!” over and over again.

what’s so surprising about this is still they manage to worship him even though he doesn’t care about them as evidenced by their miserable lifestyle under his regime. the people lack any luxury from any imported or foreign goods, while he collects cars and buys the most expensive wine out there. perhaps another factor for this is that starting from childhood, children are taught to respect and worship the dictator, and they carry it until they grow old. but i think about those who wanted to defect and those who are doomed to die in the concentration camp. this time, it is really confusing. whom among those who worship the dictator has true belief or on the other hand just an unrelenting fear, forcing them just to conform to what others are doing others? i realized that true belief and true fear is just the same here in north korea. I am not sure, but the documentary thought me that you will never understand north korea unless you, yourself, experience it.

(Visit for the complete documentary and related videos)


istepf said...

hi nald! ngayon ko lng nbsa tong blog mo,, hehe, basa ko ng mga blogs,, hehe,, saya!=)

grabe, nkkloka un.. ilang parts b ung docu n un,, gusto tapusin eh.. im watching part2 ryt now..Ü

ang tanong ay mabasa mo p kya to?? hahaha..

miss you..♥

istepf said...

hi nald! done watching the 7-part docu.. grabe,, nlurkei aku..

nang-injan k, ngpunta kmi kila te joi knina, d k n ngreply eh..=(

miss u..