Workers within an electric wire factory in Pyongyang, North Korea, weep because they hear the news headlines about Kim Jong-Il’s death.
Tensions are rising between North Korea and all of those other world, as the secretive nation reportedly prepares medium-range missiles for launch notoriously.
South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the other day that North Korea has loaded both missiles onto mobile launchers; in response, South Korea sent destroyers to its northern neighbor’s coast. The North Korean government also says it plans to restart a significant nuclear reactor it turn off within a global deal five years back. And leader Kim Jong-un ordered rockets readied to strike U.S. military bases in the Pacific, not forgetting the U.S. mainland. (It isn’t clear that North Korea’s missiles have that sort of range.)
Amid this brinksmanship, North Korea remains remarkably shut down from all of those other world. Continue reading for what’s known about the hermit country. [Nuclear Security: Best & Worst Countries (Infographic)]
1. Isolation nation
The Korean peninsula is definitely a battlefield for the world powers nearby. Japan managed Korea (the other nation), before final end of World War II; after Japan’s surrender, america and Soviet Union sliced the national country along the 38th parallel, with america administering the south and the Soviet Union controlling the north.
This division became long lasting after the US didn’t negotiate a reunification in 1948. The first president of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, declared an insurance plan of «self-reliance,» essentially shutting the country off and economically from all of those other world diplomatically.
It’s a philosophy called iuche, or self-mastery. The basic idea is that the North Korean people must depend on themselves only. This philosophy, according to Kim Il Sung, required North Korea to keep political and financial independence (even when confronted with famine in the 1990s) and also to create a solid national immune system.
2. Mythical leaders
North Korea’s ruling dynasty has always cast itself as somewhat supernatural. Founder Kim Il Sung was referred to as Korea’s «sun,» and claimed control of the elements. Together with his son Kim Jong Il’s birthday, Kim Il Sung’s birthday is a national holiday. After his death, Sung was embalmed and is based on state in Pyongyang still.
Kim Jong Il’s mythology is believe it or not extensive. His birth was hailed as «heaven sent» by propagandists, and state media has often touted impossible feats: He scored an ideal 300 the 1st time he tried bowling, and shot five holes-in-one the 1st time he played golf. Upon his death in 2011, the skies about the sacred mountain Paektu in North Korea glowed red allegedly. [Supernatural Powers? Tales of 10 Historical Predictions]
Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son and successor has yet to have quite so many tall tales told about him, however the press have described the brand new leader as «born of heaven» upon his ascension to head of state. December 2012 In, North Korean state media declared the discovery of a lair supposedly owned by a unicorn ridden by Tongmyong, the ancient mythical founder of Korea. The story wasn’t a sign that North Koreans have confidence in literal unicorns, professionals said, but a method to shore up Kim Jong Un’s rule and North Korea’s cred as the «real» Korea.
3. National prison
All of the fanciful and funny myths about North Korea’s dictators hide a disturbing truth, however: Some 154,000 North Koreans reside in prison camps, according to South Korean government estimates. (Other international bodies put the quantity at nearer to 200,000). There are six camps, surrounded by electrified barbed wire. Two camps enable some «rehabilitation» and release of prisoners, according to «Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West» (Viking, 2012). The others are prisons forever.
«Escape from Camp 14» tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person recognized to have escaped in one of the camps and also to have managed to get to the exterior world. Shin was created in the camp; his father was imprisoned because his brother had abandoned North Korea for South Korea decades earlier.
Torture, malnutrition, slave labor and public execution are means of life in the camps, which are known from satellite imagery. An Amnesty International report in 2011 estimated that 40 percent of camp prisoners die of malnutrition.
4. Lifestyle in North Korea
Given North Korea’s secrecy, it’s hard to assume what lifestyle in the united states is absolutely like. In the book «Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea» (Spiegel & Grau, 2009), journalist Barbara Demick interviewed North Koreans who escaped to South Korea. They describe a society tied by family (through the famine of the 1990s, parents and grandparents first starved, trying to save lots of food because of their children) and inundated with propaganda.
«In the futuristic dystopia imagined in 1984, George Orwell wrote of a worldwide world where in fact the only color found was in the propaganda posters. Such may be the full case in North Korea,» Demick writes.
It isn’t clear just how many North Koreans buy into this propaganda. Interviews with North Koreans in China by the brand new York Times suggested that smuggled DVDs from South Korea have enabled average North Koreans to obtain a glimpse of the world outside their borders.recently
Very, foreign journalists on supervised trips in Pyongyang have already been allowed 3G connections on cell phones, enabling real-time pictures of daily city life.
5. Difficult adjustments
With such limited usage of the exterior world, North Koreans who do make it out struggle to change often. Most are paranoid, an art that served them well in the home where anyone could turn other people into the police for saying the incorrect thing. Some are impaired by early malnutrition cognitively. And few know any thing about world history beyond North Korean propaganda. [Top 10 Controversial Psychiatric Disorders]
«Education in North Korea is useless forever in South Korea,» Gwak Jong-moon, principal of a boarding school for North Korean refugees, told Blaine Harden, the writer of «Escape from Camp 14.» «If you are too hungry, you do not head to learn and teachers don’t head to teach. Quite a few students have already been hiding in China for a long time with no usage of schools. As small children in North Korea, they was raised eating bark off trees and thinking it had been normal.»
According to Harden, the suicide rate for North Korean refugees in South Korea is two-and-a-half times that of the rate for South Koreans.
Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Initial article on LiveScience.com.