I’m looking at the latest cover of Newsweek. A full-page headshot of a grinning Kim Jong-un stares out. His hair is flecked with several grey strands makes him seem much older. His haircut, completely shaved two inches above the ears means he is instantly recognisable. He looks almost comical, like one of Orwell’s pigs in Animal Farm when they start behaving like humans. Underneath, the caption Killer Instinct Is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un out of control?
In the last few years, there have been several first point accounts of survivors who have left North Korea. Now, I don’t happen to have read all of them but I can give a fair summary of the typical scenario.
Many of the recent testimonies, alhough not all, come from young women, who had to leave their family behind, and then went on a perilous journey across the border with China (the only route North Koreans can leave the country).
But when they eventually reach freedom in their new country (many move to South Korea) life isn’t so great either. And most North Koreans are never fully accepted into South Korean society. Yes, South Koreans tend to treat North Koreans as foreigners, in spite of the fact that they share the same the same ethnic and cultural identity. For example, a reason why North Koreans are viewed as ‘other’ is that they have come to speak a completely new form of Korean. Some are viewed with fear or hostility, and even suspected of being spies for the Kim regime.
With Kim Jong-un completing several nuclear tests, relationships between the two Korea’s are at an all time low. Yet some North Koreans believe in the possibility of reunification. It’s a view held by prominent North Korean escapee Hyeonsoo Lee: “many people in the past, they never predicted German reunification, but it didn’t happen.”
With the health of Kim Jong-un not exactly great right now – his love of western food and alcohol having led to weight gain of 30kg – the regime could simply collapse if he suffers an early death (that’s if he isn’t assassinated by the Japanese).
Meanwhile, some of these North Korean women are amazing. If, like me, you are questioning why there are so many ugly women in the western world, you could be asking what’s so good about democracy anyway.