North Korea is a nation shrouded in secrecy and suspicion, complete with a dominant government that does not shy away from extreme measures in order to maintain its control. One of the most significant ways it does this is by severely limiting the freedom of expression and curtailing the freedom of speech within its borders. This oppressive practice results in citizens living in fear of voicing opinions that may challenge the status quo.
The Effect On The People
This lack of free speech has a devastating effect on the citizens of North Korea. Not only is it illegal to express oneself freely, but the government response to violation of this law is severe. People are arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even executed in cases where the government deems them to be a threat. This fear further silences the population, as they are wary of speaking out.
It is likely that the conditions in North Korea are worse than what is reported. As information is heavily controlled, the majority of reports come from outside sources which are not always reliable. This leaves a wide gap between what is officially reported and what is really happening.
The Origins Of The Problem
The lack of free speech in North Korea can be traced back to the nation’s history. The juche ideology enforced by the nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung, set out to discourage an open environment and to promote an oppressive mentality. This has been echoed by subsequent leaders and has resulted in the authoritarian regime that currently rules the country.
The inaccessibility of internet and communication technologies further contribute to the oppression. Any attempts to access foreign media, such as radio broadcasts, is considered a serious crime. This is coupled with the nations strict control of the media bureau, which is a major contributor to information control.
Professions That Do Have Freedom Of Speech
Despite the general severity of governmental control, there are some exceptions. Journalism is one of the few professions allowed to express some semblance of freedom of speech. This is largely limited to certain publications, however, and criticisms of the government are still punishable offences. Government officials also have more privilege when it comes to free speech, although this too is heavily restricted.
Pressure from the international community has been minimal with regards to the situation in North Korea. Rhetoric has been strong, but there have been few tangible results. Sanctions imposed on the country have been ineffective in bringing about change, and China is unwilling to take a hard stance against its ally. It is likely that it will take a new, international effort to bring about genuine reform.
Opportunities For Innovation
Despite the limitations imposed by the government, there are a few pockets of innovation and creativity. Crowd-funding for projects is beginning to gain traction, and digital media professionals are using their skills to challenge the status quo. There have also been public protests, which have drawn attention to some of the unjust practices of the North Korean government.
These examples of resistance highlight the spirit of the North Korean people, and show that there is a potential for growth and change. It is yet to be seen, however, what the long-term impact of these initiatives will be.
Reforms In The Near Future?
As the world increasingly turns its attention to North Korea, there is hope that reforms will be put in place. The current government has shown limited willingness to allow greater freedom of speech and press, but it is yet to be seen whether these efforts are genuine or purely for show. With international pressure continuing to grow, however, it is likely that we will begin to see some tangible reforms in the near future.
How Can Change Be Facilitated?
The international community needs to be unified in pushing for change in North Korea. Sanctions need to be targeted and effective, and it is important that China is on board with these efforts. Along with this, it is also important to support the efforts of citizens and organizations hoping to facilitate change from within.
The Role Of Technology
Technology has a key role to play in challenging the oppressive environment. Already, citizens are utilizing the Internet to access information and to spread awareness of their plight. With the development of new technologies, such as satellite Internet access, these efforts could be expanded, and citizens may have access to an uncensored version of the world.
This could have a transformative effect on North Korea, allowing for greater freedoms and encouraging the development of a more open society. With the proper support, technology can be a powerful tool for transformation.
The Role Of The International Community
The international community can help North Korea to become a more just and open nation by providing resources, aid and knowledge. Incentives for reform can be offered in the form of trade opportunities, international partnerships and investment. Along with this, it is also important to provide more information about the reality of the situation and to raise awareness of what is happening in the country.
The lack of freedom of speech in North Korea is a serious violation of human rights, and something that needs to be addressed. It is no longer possible to ignore the situation and allow those living in North Korea to continue to be oppressed. It is time for the international community to come together and work to bring real change.