Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Hermit Kingdom

Disclaimer:This post is all over the place, so bear with me.

The only thing I've ever known about Korea and the Korean people are they make some interesting dramas that Controlled Chaos likes to watch/talk about.

And occasionally I'll join her and watch them too.

That's pretty sad, isn't it?

(My knowledge of the place is sad,not the fact that I watch the dramas.)

My friend, M, recently told me about a documentary about North Korea. Some of the stuff that she was talking about just seemed unrealistic and downright primitive that I had to watch the documentary myself.

So that's what I did this past weekend.

I watched the documentary National Geographic: Inside North Korea, reported by Lisa Ling.

A doctor from Nepal, Dr. Ruetz, was traveling to North Korea to perform cataract eye surgery on approximately 1000 inhabitants of North Korea. He was going treat cataracts of people from the age range of 5-70. All in one week. Lisa Ling joined this doctor, under the ruse of working for the medical team and filming the surgeries. Along with filming the surgeries she was also able to capture, interview, and document the life of people in North Korea.

North Korea is a communist country and is currently under the rule of Kim Jong Il. It is known as the "Hermit Kingdom", because of the government's successful attempt at keeping out anything foreign and allowing anything foreign to come in. The internet is banned. Cell phones are banned. And North Koreans teach their children to hate Americans and America. In the documentary, we see a mother singing a nursery rhyme with her young daughter that goes something like " The pathetic Americans kneel on the ground. They beg for mercy....." The country is basically isolated from the outside world. And Americans are not welcomed. North Koreans still blame America for the divide between North and South Korea. During her time there, Lisa Ling was the one and only American in the whole country.

People worship Kim Jong Il in a god-like way, that it's frightening. After successfully completing 1000+ cataract surgeries, the doctor that performed it was not thanked once. Instead each patient, ran to a picture of Kim Jong Il, praised him, thanked him, and vowed to do anything that he wanted them to do, and continuously talked about how indebted they are to him. I know a large part of it is due to fear. Many people fear the government, the soldiers, and fear for their lives and their family's lives and everything that at stake if they say anything against the ruler.

But the immense gratitude and loyalty that some people show their ruler makes you question and wonder sometimes what they are really feeling.One government minder that was escorting Ling and her camera crew around was extremely offended when one of the photographers laid on the ground in order to capture the full image of a statue depicting the "great" leader. He demanded that the photographer leave the country the next day.

What surprised me the post about the documentary (besides my lack of awareness) was how blinded, both literally and figuratively, the people of North Korea are. They have been brain washed to a remarkable extent that when questioned whether Kim Jong Il could do any wrong in their eyes, many stared baffle eyed at Lisa Ling, and said "We dont quite understand your question." Because in their eyes, he could do know wrong. The question made no sense to them. And I am well aware that there is only so much that they can do for themselves without putting their lives in danger. And when you are only being fed one thing over and over and over, after a certain period of time you become immune and accustomed to it. It becomes your life. Your only chance at survival, sometimes, is to accept it.

This documentary was filmed four years ago in 2006. The state of North Korea now? Probably still the same.

So as not to make this post super long, I just want to end here by saying that it's most peculiar that people are so quick to point fingers and accuse others of oppression/being oppressed. It makes one wonder why those same people dont raise more awareness of things like this, governments like this, rulers like this, that openly and belligerently restrict and suppress their people.

P.S. You can watch the full documentary here:


Mrs. Cullen said...

I can't wait to watch the documentary. And the things you are saying are kind of hard to believe. This probably sounds so ignorant of me but I didn't think there were any countries out there that didn't use internet and cell phones. But iai.

I wanna watch this, and the gang one, inshallah!

Mrs. Cullen said...

Also, it really scares me how they worship him so much. It really freaks me out. Like its-the-end-of-the-world freak out.

CC said...

wow. that was quite crazy.

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

Kate said...

This is so crazy, I just watched that. I saw it when it came out because Oprah did a show on it, but I watched the full thing yesterday or the day before. It's scary to think of brainwashed people with access to nuclear weapons. The part that scared me the most was when Lisa said there wasn't a difference between blind worship (buying into whatever the Government says) or fear of the consequences if they don't. They've become one and the same.

ladytruth said...

I watched that same doc a few months ago and I was stunned. I think they only worship him out of absolute fear, not only for themselves, but for their families as well. Yet we take so many things for granted, like the freedom to watch any television channel we want or just phone up a loved one when we feel like it. More people should become aware of the situation and actually bloody do something about it!