Limitations on Individual Freedom in North Korea

People who live in countries with democratic governments may find it difficult to imagine that millions of people live under the rule of a corrupted communist dictator. North Korea is an example of this. The country’s dictator has become corrupt with power, making North Korea dangerous to not only North Koreans but also to world peace.

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The country of North Korea is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is located directly across the Sea of Japan from the country of Japan. North Korea borders China and a small portion of Russia. North Korea divided from South Korea approximately seventy years ago soon after World War II ended. The decision to divide the country of Korea was made without the consent of the Korean people. The Soviet Union occupied North Korea; the United States occupied South Korea. The Soviet Union implemented communist policies in the North which were popular with lower-class Koreans. Meanwhile, the United States implemented democratic policies in the South. The effect of these policies attracted the middle-class Koreans, causing them to migrate to South Korea (Pruitt). Currently, the communist government of North Korea is led by a dictator named Kim Jong-un, who calls himself the “Supreme Leader.” He became leader directly after his father, Kim Jong-il’s death in 2011. Jong-un was favored most by Jong-il out of him and his two full siblings. He is an extremely controversial leader with very harsh policies. He arrested his uncle and later had him killed for supposedly “being a traitor and trying to overthrow the government” (“Kim Jong-un,” He reportedly imprisons, tortures, and kills those who disagree with him. Even worse, he reportedly kills multiple generations of the relatives of the accused person. Famine and starvation are common under his rule. As a result of these policies, Kim Jong-un has very strict limitations on the freedom of North Korean citizens. An example of a limit on individual freedom in North Korea is the lack of freedom of information.

In North Korea, the average citizen has no knowledge of the outside world. Most do not know or understand that other countries are not governed in the same way. It has been reported that the average citizen has no internet or access to advanced technology. Education is very limited to the history of North Korea, not international history. Another example of a limit on freedom in North Korea is the lack of freedom of speech. Any person who voices an opinion that speaks against the government or country of North Korea risks that person and their family being sent to a prison camp. While the government denies its use of the prison camps, satellite photographs confirm their existence. “Criticism of the regime or the leadership in North Korea, if reported, is enough to make you and your family ‘disappear’ from society and end up in a political prison camp. It goes without saying that there is no free media inside the country. The only opinion allowed to be voiced inside the country is the regime’s.” (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). A third limitation of freedom in North Korea is the absence of freedom of movement. It is against the law to leave the country without permission from the regime, or leader. It is almost impossible to get the grant to leave the country since there are serious requirements that are difficult to meet. If someone is caught attempting to leave without permission, he or she will receive a punishment of the regime’s choice. Even if a North Korean were to escape to any surrounding countries, such as China, they would be tracked down, brought back, and punished for trying to escape. “The regime has also forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to less favorable parts of the country as a form of punishment and political persecution.” (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). A fourth way North Koreans’ freedom are controlled is forced adoration of Kim Jong-un and his family. During the education of North Korean citizens, most of their learning revolves around the history of their leader’s family. “Propaganda starts in nursery school and a large proportion of the curriculum for all students—even at university—is dedicated to memorizing the ‘history’ of the Kim family.” (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). It is reported that hours of the workday are spent worshipping their regime instead of doing actual work (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). For example, citizens are mandated to refer to their leader by different laudatory titles including “Great Leader,” “Dear Leader,” “Peerless Leader,” and “the Sun of the 21st Century.” (Sang-Hun).

Another way the lives of citizens’ in North Korea are very controlled is through the absence of health care. The government claims that they have health care for all of their citizens, however, the reality is quite the opposite. Almost all the average citizens do not have any health care, and the few who have access to it are those who can afford it. Additionally, the people that can afford health care are most likely working in the government and therefore have these privileges. As a result, many people die of otherwise easily curable sicknesses. Even though the government denies it, North Koreans are forbidden to practice religion because it is perceived as a threat to the leaders. Religion brings in outside ideas and influences that the government cannot control. Religion brings in other gods to be worshipped, making the citizens’ adoration focus on other things than their leader. It has been reported that there are facade churches so that when visitors come, they can be deceived into believing the claim that North Koreans can practice religion (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). Finally, North Korea’s criminal justice system is widely viewed as using the most heinous method of control over its people. When Kim Jong-un decides to execute a person, he will hold it publicly. He will call the people of a town, including children, to come and watch (“The People’s Challenges,” Liberty of North Korea). This manipulates the people of North Korea by using fear of the consequence of actions negative to the government. Further, collective punishment is a method of exterminating three entire generations of families to attempt to rid the country of insubordinates. A third tool of the harsh criminal justice system is the use of political prison camps.

When a person is accused of being critical or wronging the government, Kim Jong-un will have them sent to a political prison camp. At these camps, people are tortured and forced to do hard labor. To conclude, the communist country of North Korea is widely viewed as one of the most oppressive dictatorships in the world. It has many limitations on the individual freedom of its citizens. Even further, if these limits are not abided by, citizen’s lives are in jeopardy. It remains to be seen whether North Korea will be able to sustain its current isolation from the rest of the world in this modern age of technology. Isolation is the key element to maintaining control over the country’s people, and the regime may find it is increasingly difficult to keep information away from its people.

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