I have been to North Korea. Granted, it was just for a few minutes, but during that time, I learned about a place that closes its people off to the outside world, just so they won’t be exposed to the freedoms that everyone else enjoys.
I visited Seoul, South Korea, with my MBA class a couple of years ago, and we visited the demilitarized zone at the South Korea-North Korea border. We were taken in small groups to the DMZ’s center, where armed soldiers from both sides were staring each other down, and we were invited to spend a few minutes on the other side of the border line so that we could say that we had technically stepped on North Korean soil.
Guns were pointed at us the entire time we were out there, but so were cameras – North Korea propaganda officers hoping catch one of us wearing ripped jeans (“Americans are poor, too.”) or making an offensive gesture (“Americans hate us; we’re the victims.”). There was also a group of North Korean diplomats, who pointed and stared at us through binoculars from a safe distance; we were told that they had never seen blonde hair before and were amazed by it.
This image of North Korea at night illustrates its extreme poverty and serves as a reminder of the heavy price of government control.
North Korea is one of the most isolated areas of the world. “Western” items ranging from Bibles to Desperate Housewives DVDs to South Korean pop songs are banned. Many accounts report that those who try to smuggle them in are often executed.
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