North Korea: Life in US is a 'living hell'

 
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves in a 15 April, 2012 photo. Kim Jong-un to US: I know you are, but what am I?

Related Stories

Can turnabout be fair play?

After being the subject of global scorn following a highly critical UN report on its human rights abuses, North Korea has released a "news analysis" on the US human rights record.

Calling the US "the world's worst human rights abuser", the state-run Korea Central News Agency says the nation is "a living hell, as elementary rights to existence are ruthlessly violated".

The writers open the report by noting US President Barack Obama's admission that race is still a problem in the US during his remarks at commemorations on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which they call the "anniversary of the institution of citizenship").

They go on to list a litany of offences that reads like a cribbing from left-leaning US op-ed pages and opinion magazines, mixed with a dollop of Soviet-era revelling in US decadence and decay.

Start Quote

North Korea does manage to hit on the country's most vehemently discussed hot-button topics”

End Quote Nina Strochlic The Daily Beast

Racism, crime and unemployment run rampant, they write. Lax gun laws are "boosting murderous crimes," and housing prices are soaring, "leaving many people homeless".

(The North Koreans lose points for failing to cite Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Such low-hanging fruit!)

"The number of impoverished people increased to 46.5 millions last year," they continue, "and one sixth of the citizens and 20-odd% of the children are in the grip of famine in New York City."

While the US burns, they say, US President Barack Obama "indulges himself in luxury almost every day, squandering hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trip in disregard of his people's wretched life".

There is, of course, the obligatory reference to drones and the NSA surveillance scandal:

The US government has monitored every movement of its citizens and foreigners, with many cameras and tapping devices and even drones involved, under the pretext of "national security".

And the North Koreans call out the Trayvon Martin shooting:

The US true colours as a kingdom of racial discrimination was fully revealed by last year's case that the Florida Court gave a verdict of not guilty to a white policeman who shot to death an innocent black boy.

(George Zimmerman, of course, was not a police officer.)

Although a few of the insults seem to have lost a bit in translation, such as when they say the US is a "tundra of a human being's rights to existence", the intent seems clear: a glass-house US shouldn't be throwing stones at North Korea.

So how are the US media responding to these allegations? With a resounding "Yeah, but..."

The Daily Beast's Nina Strochlic says it's "disturbing" that North Koreans didn't have to embellish the statistics very much to make their point:

Start Quote

It's unclear whether North Korea's economic analysis here is intentionally misleading or just factually deficient”

End Quote Matt Ford The Atlantic

North Korea does manage to hit on the country's most vehemently discussed hot-button topics, and not just those with fringe backing. And the criticism levelled at America wouldn't be entirely ridiculous if it wasn't coming from the mouth of an accuser with much worse charges on its rap sheet.

The Atlantic's Matt Ford takes a line-by-line look at the North Korean allegations and finds quite a few shortcomings, however.

"It's unclear whether North Korea's economic analysis here is intentionally misleading or just factually deficient," he writes.

KCNA did correctly observe that 46.5 million Americans live in poverty and that the number is rising. One in five children in New York City does live in a food-scarce home, but the claim that these children live in the "grip of famine" is hyperbolic.

He adds, however, that "Pyongyang's sins don't make Washington a saint".

At least Americans know about their nation's problems and are actively engaged in debating them, writes PolicyMic's Matt Essert.

"Americans can openly complain about their country and government without fearing a trip to a work camp, so the option to change and improve America is a very real one (even if it's also a difficult one)," he says.

The Washington Post's Adam Taylor says that gun crime is the only part of North Korea's statistics that is "truly debatable":

While it's true that the number of mass shootings has risen in the United States, violent crime in general has dropped over the past few years, with homicide rates down in most major cities.

In the end, he says, the report shows that "whataboutism" - attempting to deflect blame by pointing the finger elsewhere - is "better than ever in the 21st Century".

That North Korea can employ such a tactic and not immediately be laughed out of the room, however, is a bit disturbing for those of us living in the tundra.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 18.

    The supposed fictitious nether world referred to in the headline of this article, has long since been proven not to exist.

    It would therefore, be impossible for any person to live in such a place.

    Why does the BBC, other media, and others, continue to spread such claptrap around the world (as if fact), instead of doing the correct thing, and relegating such terms to the dustbin of archaic words?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    What do you know, Kim Jong-un is a PC liberal.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    "George Zimmerman, of course, was not a police officer."

    And is not white..... You might want to add that to your story. He's Latino.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    A poor/middle-class/rich American can leave the U.S. whenever he wants. And return. And leave again. Can a North Korean? I rest my case...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Dear Matt Essert:

    Actively engaging in debating a nation's problems, does not necessarily solve those problems, and is often a complete waste of time, energy, resources and effort.

    Actively strategizing a plan to solve those problems, might actually accomplish a resolution to these problems, as long as that strategy is practical and sustainable in scope.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    So we're all agreed? Kim Jong-un is basically correct (except for minor details like the tundra and George Zimmerman being a white police man) . . . but everything's all right because anybody can say he's right without being sent to a gulag, although probably not without being called a racist.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    Someone should tell the leaders in NK that Wikipedia is not a scholarly source of information...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 10.

    "That North Korea can employ such a tactic and not immediately be laughed out of the room..."

    Don't understand the point. You don't have to take North Korean commentary seriously - and I most certainly do not - to take these issues seriously.

    The point surely is that these issues should be on our agenda regardless of what sort of propaganda NK feels like broadcasting to its people.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    'Lost in Translation' on a few points, however, America's peccadilloes (health care, offshoring, absent gun laws and open carry on guns, etc.) are held up to the world. Bush Jr never really left the stage, the Supreme Court took up the baton: 'well regulated militia' 2nd amend. & voter's right act repeal, Citizens United, etc., and today's nonsense: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-27284941

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    No, they don't have a point. And I'm very sorry for the folks in North Korea. They deserve much better.Perhaps one day...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    The difference, of course, is that we in the US can say, in public, exactly what the Great Leader said about our own country, without being sent to a re-education camp (or worse).

    We'll start taking him seriously when his own citizens can do the same.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    Dear Matt Essert:

    Actively engaging in debating a nation's problems, does not necessarily solve those problems, and is often a complete waste of time, energy, resources and effort.

    Actively strategizing a plan to solve those problems, might actually accomplish a resolution to these problems, as long as that strategy is practical in scope.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 5.

    A little quote mining, some statistics out of context, coupled with our apathy and we in the States look like hell. Make's Kim's job easy letting plutocrats rob us blind and destroy the middle class. We don't address health care rationally, homelessness, or child poverty. We could make huge progress on these problems, but politicians are too busy collecting kick backs and playing the blame game.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 4.

    If only all males in the US had such perfect hair as NK's Great and Benevolent Leader. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 3.

    Zimmerman also isn't white at least according to the US system. He is Hispanic.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    The US has a Bill of Rights - a STATE recognition of inherent rights by which all its people are entitled. It is amazingly pathetic that an authoritative communist country can spawn an article like this. Self-reflection is one thing; to seriously question the US's track record of human rights, world interests & personal freedoms in comparison to North Korea is another. I pity NK an its 'leader'.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    Everyone creates their own prison. Buy a house - it owns you. Get married, the spouse and the kids all have their 'needs'. Live in a first-world economy - pay one third of your income in taxes, if not more. 'Hell' depends on your choices - anyone anywhere can create it - or escape it once they realize what they've done.

 

Page 8 of 8

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.