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Nuclear threat is not the only scary thing about North Korea

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea as of late.  The subject of the discussion revolves around Kim Jong-un, the current supreme leader of North Korea, and the threat of the Pyongyang brain trust throwing nuclear warheads around our planet like they’re darts.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, allow me to pose a question: do you believe comparing the threat of nuclear war to a trivially innocent bar game is a bit insensitive considering the obvious seriousness of the threat?

For some reason, the discourse regarding the nuclear threat from North Korea is sarcastically dismissive of the threat. Here are some examples of jokes and bemusing anecdotes regarding the threat:
•  Jong-un stands in front of a nuclear warhead with a height requirement that Jong-un fails to meet.
•    In order to escape the threat of the North Korean nukes, a chicken simply crosses the road.
•   Jong-un replaces Matthew McConaughey as Sarah Jessica Parker’s co-star in the romantic comedy “Failure to Launch.”

Due to the impressive lack of transparency emerging from North Korea, we have an incredibly limited understanding of one of the most powerful and secretive foundations of leadership in the world.

This limited understanding extends to the previous head of the North Korean administration, Kim Jong-il. The former supreme leader was also dismissed as a kooky, enigmatic dictator without the ability to truly be seen as a threat to American society.

The most pervasive representation of Kim Jong-il in Western culture is his turn as the main villain in “Team America: World Police,” a film created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the infamous television series “South Park.”

“Team America” presents a Kim Jong-il irritated by the sheer incompetence of his associates. So much so is Jong-il’s character inconvenienced by his cronies, in fact, that the character breaks into a melodramatic song describing his depressing loneliness in a world seemingly kneeling before him.

Oh, and don’t allow me to forget the song, entitled “I’m So Ronery,” is ripe with stereotypical Korean enunciation of the English language.

The humorous impression many people have regarding the North Korean leadership—while sometimes genuinely humorous—becomes tedious and bothersome when the only thing you hear about North Korea is

“Man, that Kim dude is crazy!”

One can surely make a compelling argument that the “Kim dude” is crazy. However, if one looks beyond the recent nuclear threat and becomes aware of the incredibly horrible living conditions experienced by many of the citizens of North Korea, one may not be as willing to accept the humorously crazy persona placed upon Kim Jong-un.

According to a Business Insider article published on March 18, North Korea operates a network of prison camps within its borders that contain up to 200,000 prisoners, with additional reports indicating the prison camp network has undergone a recent expansion.

Many of the captives within the North Korean prison camps were sent there for reasons such as adherence to a religion or any semblance of thought that is not conducive to the established doctrine of the Kim dynasty regime.

Not only are these defectors sent to prison camps for the remainder of their lives, but on most occasions, the North Korean regime will imprison or execute three generations of the guilty party’s family. Many prisoners have lived their entire lives interned within the North Korean prison walls, with some being the reproductive result of marriages arranged by ruthless prison guards pairing couples based on good behavior.

Starvation and illness is rampant within the prison camps. Many individuals suffer debilitating health defects as a result of malnourishment. The only way the prisoners can obtain any form of meat or protein is through the hunting and catching of rats.

Few have escaped the prison camps. All who try, plan or know anything about escape plans without bringing their knowledge to the prison guards are executed. All prisoners are required to watch these executions.

While we paint the Kim dynasty in North Korea with a humorous brush, we seemingly fail to realize the darkness and evil within the canvas we paint over.

We can remain skeptical of the nuclear capabilities of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, but we cannot remain ignorant of the incredulous human rights violations of which this regime is capable.

John Strickland
Opinions Editor

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