Following the death of Kim Jong-Il on December 17th, 2011, Kim Jong-Un, Jong-Il’s son, would be declared as the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea. Kim Jong-Un, at the age of 27, would be in power in of over 25 million individuals in North Korean land. Kim Jon-Un is the third Supreme Leader of North Korea’s autocratic form of government. This form of government does have symptoms on those who reside in North Korea
One of the most consequential symptoms of the continued autocratic regime In North Korea is media repression. All television channels in North Korea are government controlled. This means that television viewers in North Korea get information that the North Korean government wants the viewers to be given and limits their accessibility to news from across the world. Consequently, this often means that North Korean news tends to be biased in favor of Kim Jong-Un’s government and has misinformation & propaganda about other nations such as the United States. North Korea has even limited the number of channels to only four across the regime. Those channels are named Korean Central Television, Mansudae Television, Ryongnamsan Television, and Athletic Television. The media repression extends to newspapers in North Korea. North Korean newspapers are filled with articles that are heavily biased towards the North Korean government and their “agenda”.
North Korea’s government has also limited the possibility for its citizens to travel across the regime and internationally. North Koreans are not, at all, allowed to travel to international destinations without government authorization. Attempts of North Korean’s leaving the country often leads to severe consequences towards not only those individuals, but to their family. International travel for North Koreans tends to be for working abroad/ business or studying abroad for students and not for any leisure travel or vacations. Domestic travel, such as through train, is more lenient and the government is said to allow leisure travel for North Korean citizens, but the government still has the authority to deny or approve travel domestically for any reason.
The third symptom of North Korea’s autocratic regime is that several fundamental human rights are stripped away or ignored by the North Korean government, and harsh punishments are given if any individual or groups show any dissent. The North Korean regime interferes with freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion in the country. Although their constitution, officially named the ‘Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’, guarantees “freedom of religious beliefs”, there have been multiple reports of punishments, including execution, torture, and arrest for those who exercise or engage in any religious practices. Religion is even reported to be very small, relatively nonexistent in the regime, mainly due to the government’s actions. In 2002, the North Korean Government reported religious demographics of around 12,000 protestants, 15,000 practitioners of Chondoism, and 10,000 Buddhists out of a population of 25.5 million.
Famine has been an issue faced particularly in the 1990s and is also an issue till this day. Famine is an issue in North Korea for several reasons such as the government’s ideology in ‘Juche’, which is self-reliance and isolation from other countries. The problem is that the North Korean farmland is not ideal for growing and producing food independently without the support of the USSR. Once the USSR dissolved in 1991, North Korea was negatively hit by it since they relied on the USSR for imported food and aid.
When foreign entities gave food aid, the government distributed the aid between government officials and the military instead of most suffering citizens in the country. While there has not been an official death count of famine in North Korea during the 1990s due to the lack of information from the regime, a model shows an estimated death count of 500,000-600,000 from 1993-2000 due to famine in the regime. A model by Daniel Goodkind and Loraine West show an estimated death count between 600,000 and 1,000,000 from 1995-2000. To this day, 70% of North Koreans rely on countries like the United States and organizations like the United Nations for food aid to be able to try and sustain themselves while the government focuses heavily on military and nuclear sending instead of spending on its population.