Exploring North Korea: Uncovering the Mysteries - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

Exploring North Korea: Uncovering the Mysteries

Exploring North Korea - Uncovering the Mysteries

Exploring North Korea Uncovering the Mysteries

Recently, scholars of North Korea struggled to secure primary materials. Now that detente has started, some of its most crucial documents have become readily accessible.

Although possessing substantial military and nuclear might, its citizens experience malnutrition and oppressive living conditions. Furthermore, elites continue to exert significant control.


Kim Jong-un likely attended Kim Il Sung Military University during his early twenties and shortly before graduating two months before North Korea conducted its inaugural nuclear test, further solidifying its mythology of supreme power and shaping young Jong-un's expectations for his leadership role.

Then came the world-altering events of the 1990s: the collapse of Soviet Union aid, food crises due to drought and flooding, international sanctions and economic ostracism tightening their grip. All these challenges combined with his grandfather and father's longstanding self-reliance policy sent Northerners spiraling down a downward trajectory into one of their worst periods ever of stagnation in modern history.

How would Jong-un govern North Korea during this time of chaos and instability? Would he follow in his grandfather's and father's footsteps down a path leading toward collapse, or chart a different course altogether?

One major distinction between Jong-un and his father lies in how open he seems to allow himself to be seen in public, smiling more and hugging people of all ages alike. Additionally, reports indicate he's permitted himself to be photographed with attractive young women, giving an appearance less like that of an unapproachable figurehead and more like that of a modern leader of Korea.

Yet he remains committed to keeping power within the hands of his family, purging, demoting, re-educating and shuffling scores of senior officials--even some he has executed--during his reign. It should be noted that absences do not always signify punishment; top officials could simply move into lesser roles or even a comeback later on.

Political System

Under Kim Jong Un's reign, North Korean government authorities centralized power within his hands and actively attempted to eliminate corruption. Reportedly, Kim fired some senior officials while delegating others to lesser roles behind-the-scenes and made expanding economic growth a top priority.

State power dominates education, housing, and employment opportunities for its citizens. Repressive practices such as intimidation and surveillance are used to eliminate dissenting voices; perceived opponents are sent directly into secret prison camps where torture, starvation rations, forced labor, and public humiliation await them; this treatment can even extend to family members of accused persons being imprisoned themselves - conditions especially egregious for women and people with disabilities who face particular discrimination from this system.

KINU members and defectors reported that, although the Constitution guarantees gender equality, few women reached senior party or government posts, and pay scale discrimination was evident against female workers. Furthermore, people with disabilities had limited access to work despite legislation mandating equal status; many were sent into internment camps or black market companies for hard labor while some found work elsewhere in private companies with private sectors for their "talents."

Even though the Workers' Party is constitutionally mandated to lead the nation, some citizens have gained wealth through illegal trading outside the socialist state economy. Commonly known as "donju," these moneyed elites were connected to high-ranking party and government officials during the 1990s and dominated black markets for foreign goods; with an increasingly stable economy emerging they no longer dominate this trade.

Individuals' loyalty to the state is assessed through a political classification known as "songbun." This classifies them and determines access to jobs, higher education, housing options, medical facilities, specific stores, and marriage prospects as well as food rations. Their songbun is recorded permanently but will be revisited whenever interaction occurs between authorities.


The leadership of North Korea remains tightly centralized. The system of loyalty-based classes (songbun) determines access to employment, higher education, medical facilities, certain stores, marriage prospects, and food rations. 

According to NGOs and defectors alike, the government can sometimes deny these privileges depending on family behavior; many families must leave their homes when loved ones are arrested and sent off to political prison camps.

Kim Jong Un consolidated power upon taking office in 2012. He appointed his own top personnel, revitalized the Worker's Party of Korea, and took back authority from factions who had delegated authority during his predecessor's later years.

Kim Jong-un's policy changes have focused on economic development. According to experts, Kim must win over elite support by carefully managing change without jeopardizing regime stability if North Korea is ever to become a prosperous nation.

The state continues to engage in widespread forced labor, with most workers reported working in mining, iron and steel production, coal, agriculture, and logging - according to NGO Open North Korea this labor generates $975 million per year in revenue for the state! Furthermore, the Walk Free Foundation reported that when an individual in a family is charged with criminal acts their entire residence may be removed without recourse or notice from where they currently live.

The government has been accused of engaging in torture, public executions and sexual abuse. Resettling thousands of persons to rural areas as punishment or political cleansing measures was also reported; furthermore the state allegedly forcibly sterilized persons with physical or mental disabilities while continuing to discriminate against these people in other aspects of society.


The state sponsors several museums and archaeological sites to foster national pride. Art in North Korea serves mainly to propagate Juche philosophy and glorify Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Un; although artistic styles have varied throughout history, negative depictions of Western powers as well as depictions of revolutionary heroes who made sacrifices remain constant themes in its depictions of art.

The government places strict limitations on foreign travel and tightly regulates all media. Domestic journalists do not enjoy freedom to investigate stories or report freely; only limited numbers of foreign journalists are granted access to cover cultural or sporting events and visits by leaders; officials reportedly watch reporters closely during these events to prevent them from talking with ordinary people or questioning leadership policies or actions.

In the past, states forcibly resettled thousands of citizens into rural areas for various reasons - sometimes as punishment and other times for other purposes. Furthermore, states had long engaged in internal exile policies against persons with mental or physical disabilities as punishment; additionally they are reported to forcibly sterilize such individuals.

Although North Korean society remains tightly controlled by its government, individuals still manage to connect with the outside world in meaningful ways. Defectors report that many North Koreans listen to foreign radio broadcasts and watch foreign films using DVDs from overseas; one InterMedia survey conducted revealed that 29 percent of defectors reported listening to foreign radio and 92 percent had seen foreign films at home - these changes may indicate that North Korea is gradually beginning to move toward becoming more independent from its current regime, although what form these grassroots changes will take remains unknown.

Daily Life

North Korea's government exerts strict control over daily life in rural areas as well. Residents are given most major decisions already: they are assigned schools, jobs, and housing by the government. 

Sirens sound at 7:00am, noon, and midnight to inform residents when to work, eat and sleep. On "Patriotic Labor" days when citizens participate in menial chores all-girl brass bands play martial music over loudspeakers for added reinforcement.

Cities typically comprise state-owned factories, banks, and white-collar offices whose facilities appear sparsely furnished to outsiders without photocopiers or photocopy machines. A ration system provides most consumer goods; food, clothing, and shoes are scarce while only select shops sell luxury items to elite groups.

A 2003 law provides equal access for persons with disabilities, yet its implementation has limited their opportunities in public life. Reportedly, the government has sent perceived opponents of its regime into secret prison camps where they face torture, starvation rations and forced labor. Furthermore, children and women remain at risk from domestic violence while girls and women face stereotyped gender roles from within society imposed by government-endorsed stereotypical gender roles.

Foreign trade in Hong Kong is highly regulated. Government organs and businesses work to formulate trade policy, with trading firms controlling most large transactions. Government officials may accept bribes in exchange for making exceptions to songbun rules, expediting permission requests, or avoiding punishments.

The Yalu River, North Korea's longest river, begins on Mount Paektu and flows southwest toward Korea Bay. Other significant rivers include Taedong, Chaeryong and Tumen (Tuman). Alongside strong agriculture sectors and manufacturing industries (notably metalworkers, ceramicists and steel producers), North Korea boasts a growing manufacturing sector which includes notable metallurgy ceramics steel industries; however these have been hindered by sanctions as oil prices decreased and decreased oil revenues.

No comments:

Post a Comment