By Caleb T. Maupin
The media in the United States is private property. FOX news is owned by Australian Billionaire Rupert Murdoch. MSNBC is owned by General Electric, a huge corporation that makes billions annually in military contracts and has brutally suppressed unions. The capitalist media largely reinforces and preaches ideas that serve the interests of those who own it, the wealthy capitalist class.
Naturally, a country like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as “north Korea”, is not going to be portrayed in a positive light. The DPRK is a country in which there are no billionaires. The banks, factories, industries, and natural resources are held in common. A revolutionary communist party, the Korean Workers Party, holds a monopoly on political power. While the United States sits atop the world system of capitalist imperialism, the DPRK is a socialist country. It points to a different way forward for the working people of the world.
It should be no surprise that the image of the People’s Korea etched into popular consciousness is a false one. Here is refutation of several of the most common misconceptions about the DPRK.
Myth #1: Socialism in the DPRK results in mass starvation and economic misery.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has had many unprecedented economic successes since being established in 1945. In the 1960s and 70s, even capitalist political commentators spoke of the “North Korean Economic Miracle.” With Soviet Aid, the DPRK became a powerhouse of industry. Education rapidly advanced and universal literacy was achieved. Huge Universities were established. Housing was constructed. The wages of Korean workers went up exponentially. (“North Korea: A Country Study” U.S. Library of Congress)
The Socialist planned economy of the DPRK was a model that inspired countless people around the world. Che Guevara even remarked that Cuba should model itself on the DPRK when he visited it during the early 1960s. (See “North Korea, Another Country” by Dr. Bruce Cummings.) Until the late 1980s, the life expectancy of people in the DPRK was higher than in those residing in south Korea.
The food crisis took place when the Soviet Union, the main trading partner of the DPRK collapsed. Economic sanctions and military encirclement from the U.S. caused huge problems. The DPRK’s agricultural system was largely dependent on the use of petroleum. Without the ability to purchase petroleum from the USSR, a food crisis ensued. Flooding followed by draughts made the situation even worse.
The Korean Workers Party refers to this period, in which many people starved to death as the “arduous march.” It blames the economic sanctions, the threats of military aggression from the U.S., and the loss of the Soviet Union as an economic ally and trading partner for the tragic events that occurred.
The “arduous march” period is over. The DPRK is recovering from the setbacks, and thousands of new houses are being constructed all over the country. (Korean Central News Agency)
Even during this food crisis, not a single person in the DPRK was ever homeless. Not a single person in the DPRK has ever been unemployed. Education, from kindergarten to University is free for all people residing in the DPRK. The DPRK is now one of less than 10 countries on earth that is capable of launching satellites into orbit. It has also successfully tested nuclear weapons several times.
The socialist planned economy in the DPRK has had largely good economic results. This is often ignored, while the media endlessly emphasizes the horrors of the “arduous march” period, while not pointing out their actual causes. The media is essentially lying through omission in order to demonize People’s Korea, and denigrate the successful economic record of Socialism.
Myth #2 – The DPRK is a hereditary monarchy. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong-Un were/are absolute monarchs.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a highly democratic constitution. Workers are represented in people’s assemblies in their workplaces and neighborhoods. Elections, voting, and widespread discussions of government policy frequently take place. The Korean Workers Party, which leads the country, has many thousands of members. Koreans outside and inside the party are politically engaged in the decision-making process. The DPRK is not an autocracy ruled by a single person. Such things exist in many capitalist countries like Saudi Arabia, but not in Socialist countries.
The fact that Kim Il Sung’s descendents continue to represent the country as heads of state makes clear that the ideology and revolutionary spirit of the country has not changed. It communicates to the U.S. imperialists who seek to destabilize and overthrow the DPRK, that they will not be able to divide the Korean Workers Party. It makes clear that the Koreans are united in their desire to oppose the U.S., and build socialism. The vision of Kim Il Sung for a united, prosperous, independent Socialist Korea is still very well alive, and that vision remains unaltered despite the many hardships of recent decades.
Myth #3 – The DPRK is a very sexist country. Women are not even allowed to ride bicycles.
The constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea guarantees women equality with men, as well as equal pay for equal work. In the recent Olympic games, women from the DPRK received many gold medals for their athletic achievements.
Kim Jong Suk, a woman who led the anti-Japanese resistance movement in Korea, is a national hero and symbol of the Korean Workers Party. Paintings portraying Korean women brandishing rifles hang all across the DPRK. Korean women occupy leading positions within the government, the Korean Workers Party, as well as in the country’s police and armed forces.
The media recently attempted to declare that women in the DPRK could not ride bicycles. The DPRK released a video on youtube exposing this as a viscous lie:
Myth #4 – All “credible scholars” hold an anti-DPRK views.
Dr. Bruce Cummings, the most widely respected scholar of Korean history, holds a highly positive view of the DPRK. Cummings, who is the chair of the History Department at the University of Chicago, is not a Marxist. However, his writings that portray the DPRK do not echo the falsehoods preached in the capitalist media. His books such as Korea’s Place in the Sun and North Korea, Another Country paint a much more sympathetic portrait of the DPRK than is commonly heard in the United States.
Martin Hart-Landsberg, another well known and well respected scholar in the U.S. has written a book entitled Korea: Division, Reunification, and U.S. Foreign Policy. His book also presents a more accurate analysis of the history of the DPRK.
Many “personal accounts” about life in the DPRK have been published which demonize the country and its revolutionary leadership. Most of them originate from sources that are closely linked with the South Korean military. They have a clear motive for presenting falsehoods in their “personal recollections” of life in the DPRK.
Myth #5 – South Korea is a democratic country where people have freedom. It is being threatened by the DPRK.
South Korea, also known as the “Republic of Korea” is a highly autocratic country in which many people, especially the working class are severely repressed. Syngman Rhee, a brutal dictator, ruled the country for many years. U.S. tax dollars, and thousands of U.S. troops supported Syngman Rhee as he brutalized and repressed the people in south Korea. Thousands of innocent Koreans were executed under Syngman Rhee, or put into prison camps.
The people of Korea rose up in the famous “April Revolution” and brought down the dictatorial state in south Korea. Though multi-party elections and a little more basic freedom exists, the country is still hardly “democratic.”
Park Joeng-Geun, a 24 year old man living in south Korea is facing a possible sentence of many years in prison. His crime? He made statements on twitter that are sympathetic to the DPRK. Organized labor is routinely repressed in south Korea, with strikes being ruthlessly put down and workers being murdered.
Thousands of U.S. troops occupy south Korea, often raping and murdering Korean women and children without facing any punishment. Mass rallies demanding that the U.S. troops leave country go on all the time. South Korean police are known to routinely torture striking workers and activists demanding democratic rights, and even very anti-Communist groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the “human rights violations” that exist in south Korea.
The DPRK is not threatening the people of south Korea. It instead has called for “peaceful reunification” and wants to re-unify with its southern countryfolk. The U.S. refuses to even sign a treaty recognizing the right of the DPRK to exist. The DPRK has been forced to spend millions on its military because it faces a continued threat from the U.S. and its puppets in the south Korean government.
U.S. troops sit on the “38th Parallel” threatening the DPRK. During the Korean War, the U.S. killed 4 million Koreans because they dared try to re-unite their country. The fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea still remains strong, and has recently launched a rocket into orbit, and test nuclear weapons, is a testament to the fact that U.S. imperialism is not unstoppable.
For many decades the DPRK has held out as a symbol of revolutionary anti-imperialism. It remains a stronghold of Socialism, and fights each day to peacefully re-unify the country and drive the U.S. out of the entire peninsula.