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Is North Korea misunderstood?

WHYS Team WHYS Team | 19:30 UK time, Thursday, 22 July 2010

NKkids.jpgIt might be an understatement to say that North Korea is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma... But the hermit kingdom is all over the news and the diplomatic heat is rising. Just today North Korea condemned the forthcoming US-South Korea naval excercises as a threat to global peace, a spokesman said
Such movements pose a great threat not only to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula but also to global peace and security

So what should the rest of the world make of North Korea?

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson points out how difficult it is to build any kind of truthful picture of what he calls a "Kingdom of Lies":

The regime's constitution is deception. Everything, starting with the birthplace of its leader, is a lie. In more than 60 years, North Korea has never published an honest or complete set of economic indicators. Its history books simply make up events.

John Feffer warns against seeing Kim Jong Il's regime as a "unified evil force" and argues:

There are government officials in North Korea who want to revive the manufacturing and agricultural capabilities of the country and recognize that a starving population is unacceptable.. Yes, of course, economic reform has encountered resistance within the country. That is a basic truth about economic reform in every country. But to treat the North Korean government as a unitary actor with a single mind is an analytical mistake.

With all this talk of sanctions, six party talks and loudhailer diplomacy it's easy to overlook what life is like for people in North Korea. Blogger Henrikchoi interviews Daniel Gordon, whose film "the Game of their Lives" follows the story of the North Korean football team's 1-0 victory against Italy in the 1966 Fifa World Cup in England. He says it the hermit kingdom is misunderstood because our view is formed by the media and official rhetoric from Pyongyang:

We have this view that all North Koreans are the same but it's a country of 20 million individuals. They are happy... within a context of themselves... within the context of the situation. Do they want to be more comfortable? Yes. But they work really hard. They want their children to go to the best schools to have a better life. How many people are happy in the United Kingdom? It's all relative.

So how misunderstood is North Korea? Is it even possible to form an understanding of such a secretive country? And how much of an impact does our understanding of it have on global security?

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