Friday, 5 April 2013

"What do you really think...

will happen in North Korea?" the Senior Cat asked me yesterday. I know it genuinely concerns him. He is old enough to remember WWII as an adult. There have been other conflicts since then, some of them - like the Korean one - still unresolved. Some of them indeed seem insoluble.
I know someone who has been to North Korea. He did not go as a regular tourist or an aid worker. He risked his life going in and out on an "investigative" trip. He wanted to know if things were really as bad as other people were suggesting. He found they were far worse - at least in the area he went into.
I have to be careful here, as careful as he was. He did not want to exaggerate and he has no photographic proof as, if he had been caught with a camera, he would almost certainly not have been released. He said the houses were small and not in good repair. It was not, he felt, the disrepair of neglect but the disrepair of poverty and lack of building materials and the lack of energy to do the work which needed to be done.
Clothing was much the same and there was a sameness about it all. 
There were, he told me, no fat people - or none that he saw. Most people were underweight. He took his own food with him. It was a wise move. There was very little food for sale in the area he visited. Evidence of the famine which had hit the country was very obvious.
Everything seemed clean and very tidy, parts of it reminded him of an army barracks.
But the thing that really hit him was the silence. There was almost no traffic. People did not talk to one another. They did not smile or laugh or chat. There were no cafes or coffee shops, no gatherings for a sports match. (There was an old poster for a propaganda film - dated some years previously - but his contact told him that there was no electricity for films now.) People simply do not gather unless they are told they must. It is not safe. It is not even safe to visit the neighbours.
He saw children marching to school - supervised by the older children. Apparently they do sometimes sing as they march - songs in honour of the Kim dynasty - but they were not singing that day.
If the rest of North Korea is like this - and the person telling me this stressed he did not know although he thinks there are likely to be similar problems everywhere - then any sort of conflict with the outside world will surely cause severe confusion. North Koreans are taught they are fortunate, that they live in the best country in the world and that the rest of the world envies them. It is a terrifying thought.

1 comment:

widdershins said...

What's scarier is the fact that no-one really controls a situation like this. One miss-communication, one ij'it with a grievance, one piece of equipment failure ... I remember after the end of the 'cold war' reading a well researched article that said the only way humans didn't blow themselves, and a good portion of all the other species on the planet, to smithereens during that time was ...'luck'!