For some inexplicable reason, I've been into North Korea lately. I don't me like in love, but you know, searching recent news and stuff. This is impart due to Atlas Shrugged. I've listened to the audio book twice now, in part because it helps with my insomnia. This isn't to say that the book is boring. Its not, but it is loaded with pro free capitalism diatribes. Enough of those will put anyone asleep, especially the second time around.
One thing the book does really well, at least for me, is make one think. I've been thinking and thinking which lead to a perverted interest in North Korea. Did you know they have a marathon there every year and people pay the North Korean government 1350.00 euros to be a symbol of North Korea's endurance and revolutionary spirit. After reading Aynn Rand's book...
I've never been to North Korea so I don't know everything but I do know that their prison population is so high that the prisons have become towns and you know if you defect then your relatives for generations will be in prison. Seriously. One woman was release from prison after 37 years... she was born there, and only learned of her charges after she was let go.
"You have now served all your time for your great, great, great grandfather's crime of defecting from North Korea," said North Korea.
"All these bad things happened to me because of something my great, great, great grandfather did."
"Yep and don't you forget it!"
She didn't. She left, though she didn't seem to have any children or family.... to defect knowing your family for the next three or four generations would be in prison, life would have to really, really suck or be some kind of ( insert expletive). Speaking of expletives that begin with a, I think people who pay to get the dictator approved tour are... well lets just put it this way, Ayn Rand would have put these people on the steam engine as it went through the tunnel in Atlas Shrugged.
From scientists to runners to photographers to Dennis Rodman, people all over the world are like, "North Korea ain't so bad." Its spoken in that "we're all just people." Having not been in North Korea myself, perhaps I just don't get it.
Here's what I do get: In Korean the word for foreigner is 외국인 (waegukin), but it's more akin to alien when it's used to refer to critters from space. No, Koreans don't actually think we're from space but it's not exactly wrong either. Alien = not human= not us. 외국인=not Korean= not us. I say this not to fault South Korea... I Iove South Korea. I say this because foreigners who travel to North Korea and leave with this sense of having accomplished something culturally, are making an assumption that all cultures hold personal experiences above societal experiences.
Confucianism holds the group above individual experiences and both Koreas have until very recently have only thought in a way that is alien to much of the world: the societal experience is held above personal. Considers that South Koreans still still say our car, our house, our mother, our father (as in belonging to society). Communism didn't just happen to the people of North Korea. It was built into the Korean language itself long before Marx wrote his manifesto.
This is what ultimately fascinates me: words. They not only allow people to communicate, but also convey a sense of the society, past and present. Some languages lack a future tense and others lack a past. Others put the emphasis on the individual (stand out) and others put the emphasis on the group (fit in.) Details about a language without out even in speaking it can give you more insight to internal thought structure of its people. That's right. Language forms the way we think. This too is what I like about writing. A story or book or even a single sentence has the ability to initiate a collective thought pattern change, "to go boldly where no man has gone before."
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).