North Korea

In this third installment of looking at the Korean peninsula as ruins of empire, I want to look at how the people of Korea specifically North Korea were the ruins of an empire. North Korea is still suffering from the effects of the Korean War. This look into North Korea’s people as ruins was inspired by the article from the New York Times of a North Korean soldier who defected and shocking revelation was found. A North Korean defector was seen trying to cross the DMZ in the “most dramatic” defecting in years with several 10 to 11 in parasitic worms in his intestines. The condition of the North Korean people can be and is considered a humanitarian crisis but what I want to look at is the past, the history behind how a country and its people were left in ruins and how this came to be.

An abandoned girl shown in file photo dated 26 September 1950 crying in the streets of Inchon, South Korea during the the Korean War 1950-1953. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned in the rubble

The Korean war caused so much damage that some estimate that “the Korean War had done far more damage to the peninsula than World War 2 had done to the Europeans and Americans.” (Han 12) Damages as in loss of property, lives, separation of families. Near the end of the Korean war approximately three million, ten percent of the overall population was lost to the war. The majority of those killed were in the North. (Armstrong) North Korea, was even more devastated than the South and had little resources to rebuild. Soviet Union, China, and the Soviet-aligned countries of Eastern Europe and Mongolia, and East German all cooperated in sending aid and helping to restore North Korea. In 1962 North Korea was rebuilt. (Armstrong)

Pyongyang, 1953

During the rebuilding of North Korean, it was reported that “In the late 1950s North Korea’s growth rate of total industrial output (averaging 39% between 1953 and 1960) was probably the highest in the world.” (Armstrong). How can it be that a country once in ruins, raise up then once again fall into despair? Is it because of North Korea unstable foundations on tops of ruins or is it because of poor leadership. I stronger suspect it is the latter. North Korea’s paranoid, realist self-help policy and military-driven society, as well as lack of allies, may have a hand in its slow descent. North Korea’s rogue state like actions leaves it very little allies to depend on. The soviet union once North Korea’s ally collapsed due to economic issue also lead to North Korea’s entire economy descending into chaos. This also lead to the North Korean famine, poor leadership and corruption within the government lead to the worsening of the situation which cost many lives.

It seems like once again that poor leadership is at play again, once again the leader of North Korea is starving his citizens for the pursuit of military power, and advancement in nuclear weaponry. Hearing of the condition of the recent North Korean defector it makes me wonder how a country can treat their citizens like this. The conditions of these citizens are not the ruins of an empire any longer but seemingly the ruins of their own country as the leader’s failure to do right by their citizens.

Image result for current leader of north korea
Kim Jong Un Supreme leader of North Korea


Sources Used:

Armstrong, Charles. “The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 – 1960’1950-1960.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Accessed 18 Nov. 2017.

Jong-Woo, Han. Power, Place, and State-Society Relations in Korea: Neo-Confucian and Geomantic Reconstruction of Developmental State and Democratization. Kindle edition, 2015.

Sang-Hun, Choe. “Surgery Reveals North Korean Defector Is Riddled With Parasitic Worms.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 17 Nov. 2017, Accessed 18 Nov. 2017.

Weissmann, Jordan. “How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea.” The Atlantic, 19 Nov. 2017, Accessed 18 Nov. 2017.

Images Used:

One Reply to “North Korea”

  1. I heard about the North Korean defector, knew little about him thinking he was just another soldier looking for safety from a country he thought was home. Reading that he had several parasites was disturbing and made me question like you, how can a country strive for military power and put its people at risk? As you may know, their leader puts up the persona that their country is thriving not only in the nuclear race, but also improving the conditions for their people. This blog post and previous knowledge would suggest otherwise! In this context, would you say that empire sees putting its people last makes them a powerful entity? Personally, I find that any means of success would be accomplished even if that means putting your citizens in danger. North Korea is definitely in the power spectrum and is on the news constantly for its advancements in nuclear capabilities, all while their citizens are collateral because of poor leadership.


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