Of all the dictatorships and authoritarian regimes that have existed, North Korea is especially awful. On this episode Connor and Brittany discuss how North Korea came to be and what life is like for those who must live there.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: We’ve talked before about authoritarianism. we’ve talked about dictatorships, but today I want to talk about one in particular, and that is North Korea. And look, there’s a lot of oppressive governments, honestly, all of them are oppressive. but North Korea, I think might be probably the most horrific dictatorship we’ve seen in our modern day, second only to maybe China. in North Korea, the people basically have no freedom. They have no concept of individual thought. they’re taught to think in terms of collectivism, rather than themselves individually. they’re taught to like literally blindly follow their leader. Kim Jong-Un, who is the son of the old leader, Kim Jong-il. But before we get into that, Brittany, maybe you can talk about how did Korea get divided into two countries. Like we have a North Dakota and a South Dakota Right. Or things like that. But how did North Korea and South Korea get split?
Brittany: Yeah, and it’s funny cuz we don’t actually call it South Korea. I was thinking about this thing. I’m like, we just call it Korea. So like, it’s interesting to me because we do call North and South Dakota, but, okay, so after World War II, which is a war, that we’ll be going into in more depth in later episodes, but, when Japan surrendered, they had control over what was all of Korea during the war. And then when they lost, it was divided between the Soviets, which is now like Russia area, but it was called the Soviet Union back then, and the US. So each side was kind of claiming to be the rightful Korean government. So we had the US you know, we had one side, Soviets had this other, and, it actually ended up leading to the Korean War. And I think this is interesting because the Korean War is something you hear about in history class, but no one ever really talks about what it is. Usually they kind of breeze over. Vietnam is a little bit more discussed, but there’s the Korean War, there’s a couple others where they just kind of, oh yeah, that war happened, but they don’t tell you what happened because of it and why it happened. So that’s how the Korean War came about. And there was actually no clear winner. If you’re a chess player, you know what’s called a stalemate. That’s when there is no winner and you can’t move the ponds anymore. So that’s what happened. There was a stalemate and the country ended up staying divided. So North Korea became this dictatorship. Well, you know, we just call it Korea, but it’s actually South Korea they adopted, more like Western economic social, policy. So there, more like America in, their, you know, capitalistic views. And, they’re definitely more socially open than a communist country would be.
Connor: Okay. So let’s talk a little bit about what life is like in North Korea to the extent that we know. Yes. It’s a very closed-down, country. In fact, I have this shirt that my, friend, Tim Schmack made. Oh, he’s great for his marketing company. And it’s, this, on the front of the shirt. It’s got Korea, like full Korea, north and south. And it’s this satellite picture of Korea at night when everything is dark except for just the lights that you can see from the surface of the earth. And in North Korea, they’re everywhere. So all on the shirt, right? All these little like white dots, basically just, everything’s kinda lit up from people, you know, stores, homes, backyards, all these types of things. And in North Korea, there’s like two or three tiny little dots and everything else is just dark. And, it shows you the destruction of communism, right? The abundance that is created by capitalism with a free market. these countries started at the same point right before this war. Yep. And then they went on two very diverging paths and one is just in poverty. and one embraced, as you say, kind of these western economic policies, free market ideals are, you know, mostly free market. And, that’s led to a lot of abundance. And, you know, life in North Korea, I mean, it’s horrible. Like, it’s hard not to get emotional when you hear the stories of people who have managed to escape. I mean, for the families out there, you know, you can Google Yeonmi Park. We’ll, link to a story or two about her on our show notes page. she’s someone, that has kind of come into our movement and, and shares her story and the importance of freedom. And so, she’s a really important voice to help us understand what North Korea is like. She escaped North Korea with her mother to China and had to withstand oppression once more in China until she was able to make it to the US. And just the brutal conditions, that she lived in, her story’s incredible. and now she shares it. I remember watching a video, I think it was on the Dave Rubin show, just, recently where she was talking about how when she escaped someone asked her what her favorite color was. And she shares how the question to her was weird because she had never been asked before. She wasn’t really allowed or encouraged to have favorites because that’s an individualist. Yeah. Type of thing. And, you know, what book do you like? Or what’s your favorite movie? Right? These things were foreign to her. Her brain did not work that way. She had to like retrain her brain to accept that, you know, she could consider those types of thoughts that she could have favorites. And it just shows to what degree the schools, for example, in North Korea are engaged in this propaganda fight in molding these little kids to be, to think a completely different way. To not think about themselves, to only think about the collective. it’s almost like it’s a dystopian story and sadly it’s the reality for a lot of people.
Brittany: It’s almost so much worse. Cuz again, like you said, it’s real. there was a really good podcast she was on with Jordan Peterson. She’s been on a few lately. I’ve noticed. Like, she goes on this like, there’s like a track record of, or like a, she goes on a streak of doing all these interviews and she went on a Jordan Peterson one and talked about just how horrific her upbringing was, but that she didn’t know it was horrific. And, she talks about how skinny and how malnourished everyone is there, but you don’t know that you’re malnourished if you don’t know what somebody who isn’t malnourished looks like. Right. You don’t know that there are people who aren’t starving unless you, you know, that that exists. And the propaganda, we’ve talked about propaganda a lot of times in North Korea is unlike anything else because they don’t get any other information in because there’s like, what do they call it? The line of demarcation or something that separates them from South Korea. You can’t get any information into North Korea. So when someone tells you something, that is what you take as the gospel truth. So there is no way to second guess that. So I mean, they are taught that Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-il were essentially gods. There is no religion in North Korea, but if there were, it would be the state, which is terrifying. So there’s even like beliefs that, like the sun created them and they just ki like it, it’s so absurd that you, and I think nobody would believe that. But when you don’t get any other information, how would you know to second guess it? We don’t know that cuz we are very fortunate. The other thing that is kind of makes you laugh, but it’s the sad truth of the matter. everything is so micromanaged that you can’t even get a haircut unless the haircut is government approved. So there’s like a list of, I don’t remember how many, but like five or six haircuts for each gender. And if you get a different haircut, like you will be sent to prison, you will never see your family again. And it’s almost laughable to us cuz it’s like, oh, that’s no big. Like, well that’s so silly. But that is what happens. This is the kind of horrific circumstances people in North Korea are, are living under.
Connor: Well, and of course like, you know, there’s no tourism. It’s not like we can go hop on a plane and be like, although who was it?
Brittany: People have.
Connor: Dennis Rodman went, you know.
Brittany: Yes, Robin did vice. and I would, I’m not gonna link to the vice interview or actually it might be family-friendly, but I’m not gonna link to it. but somebody snuck a camera into a vice reporter, this was maybe 15 years ago, pretty shocking. But since they knew an American journalist was coming, they like pretended there was food. But like, they never saw it. Like there would be like dishes with covered, like, covered dishes, but they never saw what was under the covered dishes cuz there was no food. So it was all like a ruse. But that is a very interesting video of somebody sneaking a camera into North Korea.
Connor: I’m familiar with one or two organizations in South Korea where what they’ll do is they’ll go to the border, that lion of demarcation or whatever it is, the demilitarized zone in the middle.
Brittany: Yes. demilitarized zone.
Connor: And, they’ll launch these like weather balloons or these, these big balloons with, supplies that they then have those balloons float over the border. And there’s some kind of little mechanism, that releases and starts to deflate the balloons slowly. So it, you know, lands in North Korea. And, I’ve actually looked into this before because they send in, you know, books and thumb drives that have information on them and movies and, they’re trying to spread ideas. They’re trying to educate whoever finds these materials in North Korea. and you know, I’m surprised they haven’t, maybe they have like done drones and things like that too, you know. but I’ve looked into this in the past because we have one of our Tuttle twin’s books, the first one, the Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law. We have it translated into Korean. We had, a group, that we worked with in South Korea do that book. And so then I’m like, oh man, how cool would it be to, get this book into one of those balloons, you know, and have Tuttle twin’s books in North Korea. And apparently, you know, it’s created hostilities. This type of, activism has created, some tension between the governments of North and South Korea. And so South Korea has actually banned it. they now criminalize you if you try and engage in that activity because it’s so provocative to North Korea. Why? Because, you know, they, are in a propaganda war. They are, subjecting their citizens to these lies and they don’t want the truth to get in there. And so when people force the truth in there or, use these types of methods, they don’t take kindly to it. They see it as a threat. And I remember that Ron Paul quote, maybe he didn’t come up with it, but he certainly, I think popularized it where he says, truth is treason in an empire of lies. And, so how powerful it is for these efforts to spread the truth. Cuz you know, this gal Yeonmi Park, like for her, she believed the lie, right? She didn’t know these truths. She didn’t know that, you know, she was an individual and that she could have that she was being deprived of so many things. She just had no clue. And how sad that is. But, I’ve always applauded those efforts of people who are being treasonous, who by sharing truth inside of a empire of lies. And it’s just so sad for so many of the people who, live there and just don’t even know how awful things are.
Brittany: Yeah. And I have to, every time I hear her speak, and again, we’ll link to some videos of her just the way she can stay composed when she’s talking about some of the horrors. I mean, and I won’t get into the nitty gritty details, even though what I’m gonna say is pretty horrific on its own. But I mean, we eating your pets and stuff, that’s not like, that’s, you don’t have pets. Like you see a wild rat or something that is dinner-like, and that would be like a good night. So it’s, so sad to me because again, as much as we wanna pick on America, and there are a lot of things to pick on America for so many of us can’t even picture what this life would be like because we’ve never even seen e even the most extreme impoverished people here are nothing like the people over there. And, like, we said, they don’t even know that, that’s the way they’re living. And that’s what gets me. And in schools, I mean, we think that public education in America is bad. In schools, I believe they do have access to the internet, but it’s not like the real internet. It’s the North Korean internet. but they make it seem like in this vice documentary I watched, they took the American journalist to a school and they’re like, look, every one of our students has a computer. Look, all of them can do this. I don’t know if you’ve seen the crazy videos where they teach bears how to roller skate. Have you seen these? I’m not making this up by the way. This is real. So they do these big grand shows for who, you know, the leader Kim Jong-Un, and they teach these kids how to dance, but it’s like militarized like goosestepping, you know, it’s very synchronized dances. Well, one of their like things that they claim to fame there is, they, will put muzzles on like bears and they will teach them to roller skate. And PETA hates this, obviously. but this just goes to show you the length they go to impress their leader. Like, everything is about the leader. It’s what’s called a cult of personality. I’m actually, I’m gonna link to one of the bear videos because you won’t believe it. It sounds like I’m talking nonsense, but it’s crazy. it’s just, it’s a whole different lifestyle and we think it’s bad here and there are a lot of bad things here, but North Korea just terrifies me.
Connor: Oh yeah. And it should because there are so many evil things happening there. And it’s so sad because, you know, I think of all the things the military, like, if you’re gonna intervene somewhere, you know, don’t go intervene in the Middle East or in, you know, random countries where there’s just oil and that’s what you really want. Like if we have to intervene in a country, let’s go topple the North Korean government, right? Like, you know, I don’t think that that’s the right answer, but all of us, like, I think we need to care more about this. I think there needs to be more pressure. I think there needs to be a lot more activism like these balloons and things like that. Really just trying to help the people there. Like, it’s so hard to know what you can do when there’s such a closed-down society like that. And, you feel like, can’t last forever, it’s just gonna collapse. Just like Sweden used to be a very socialist country, but then they saw they were going bankrupt. They started to adopt more market-based policies like an how, how long can this, awfulness go on for in North Korea before, you know, things start to get better? And, I don’t know, these are tough questions, but we’ll link to some of those resources Brittany mentioned at Tuttletwins.com/podcast. It’s at least good to know that some of this stuff exists because we have to be on the guard for it. We never want that stuff happening here. and in fact, we are working on a project, which I think, I don’t think it’ll be done by the time, this episode releases, but we’re working on this project, this book about political villains so that we can be on the guard and understand like, how did this come to be and with all these bad guys throughout all of history, right? How did they rise to power? What, were the circumstances like in their countries and communities? And so what can we be on the guard for today in our own countries and communities to never let that happen again? because it’s happened so many times throughout history and it’s happening today. And I think it’s important for us to know what we can do and what we shouldn’t do and shouldn’t allow to happen if we want to prevent, you know, more North Korea. So be on the lookout for that. We’re hard at work on that and so much more. Tuttletwins.com/podcast is where you can find the resources we mentioned today. Brittany, as always, thank you. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.