Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Glimmers of protest in the 'hermit kingdom' of North Korea

The Telegraph carries a mind-blowing report today about signs of dissent against President Kim Jong-il, the ruler of this totalitarian state. The protest apparently took place in the city of Hoeryong, in the north-east border area of the country, and took the form of a poster of Kim being defaced with the following slogan:
"Down with Kim Jong-il. Let's all rise to drive out the dictatorial regime."

- shown in video footage smuggled out of the country, which included a voice-over opining:
"The gentle and ordinary people of North Korea need a new leader," a male voice says. "There is a great potential for democracy in this country."

In western terms these may seem mild protests, but the gravity of the offences for the perpetrators, if caught, is likely to be of the most extreme nature. Having lived in a number of pretty autocratic countries, I can perhaps understand a little better than many others just what these 'mild' protests may cost the brave souls involved (after all, in one such country a friend spent 13 years in a 're-education' camp, suffering permanent physical damage in the process, for having offended the regime which controlled his country, whilst another friend and former colleague emerged from his 'questionning' by the authorities with both emotional and physical impairment). It is possible that, even now, investigations are being conducted in the city where it happened, partly as a result of the publicity given to the reports in South Korea and in the wider world.

Some other dictatorial regimes have collapsed pretty rapidly once protests within those countries began to become frequent (East Germany and Romania, for example) and it is not impossible that this might happen in North Korea, but I fear their emergence from their particular brand of socialist hell may be much more prolonged and costly for those who contribute to it happening. And it may never happen, or at least not for a long time.

(By the way, I noticed this report about a week ago in the BBC website, about the North Korean regime's views on male grooming - this exemplifies, in a minor way, just what living under the gaze of 'Big Brother' is all about.)

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