April 24, 2004

The Shattered Morning Calm

SHEILA O'MALLEY has written a nice post on the difference between media coverage of the Madrid train-bombings, and the explosion at a train station in North Korea. The difference she points out is this: in contrast to the news reports from Spain, when one razors down the tapes of all the news reports out of North Korea, all one really hears is silence.

"And yet the people of North Korea -- what of them?" Ms O'Malley asks.

We were very glad to see that she asked this question, as it seems to us that few people out there are.

For we must say we're amazed this train wreck has garnered so much attention from the press. It is, of course, a newsworthy event: at least 154 people were killed and 1,300 more were injured in the explosion at Ryongchon. But we truly fail to see why an industrial accident should garner such interest, given everything else that has happened in the Hermit Kingdom.

What, the two million dead of famine in the past few years aren't worthy of non-stop coverage? The hundreds of thousands languishing in prison camps aren't worthy of it? The prisoners subjected to chemical experiments and hideous tortures and systematic rape aren't worthy of it? The suppression of religion and the cannibalism and the millions of malnourished children aren't worthy of it? The drug trafficking and counterfeiting and arms dealing and other soft acts of aggression on the DPRK's part aren't worthy of it?

Apparently not.

Because reports do exist about how Koreans in the North live -- both from the Chinese traders who serve as North Korea's main commercial link with the outside world, and from the defectors who managed to get out of the place. It's just that people in the West don't know about them.

So, with that, we shall present a variety of information about the daily life of Koreans in the North. All the following sites are in English.

One can read defectors' testimonies here, from the ROK's National Intelligence Service; one can also get a weekly update on North Korean events there. For more information on human rights issues, and additional testimonies, one should read the Chosun Journal.

For foreigners' travelogues on North Korea, check out this Canadian academic's site. For basic news, Pyongyang Square is also a fine site, and the Asia Times does a nice job as well. We also recommend The Academy of Korean Studies' page.

There are two other sites which we think readers will find interesting.

The first is that of the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, which offers its North Korea Report as events or news happens. (Interesting to note: in December 2002, they reported the North's railroads were in disarray).

Lastly, we would point readers to an instructive guide on the Korean language, as spoken in Pyongyang. It is one page long, but speaks volumes.

We do hope, if readers are interested in this subject, that they will take some time to look over the sites we've mentioned. For within their pages, one learns just what has become of the Korean people who live North of the 38th parallel.

And it will horrify you.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 24, 2004 01:12 PM | TrackBack

I think since they have closed themselves off from the world and world press the old line "if it bleeds, it leads" does not work.
So many people who would react to help from images of the carnage and death sits back. For the north no news is bad news today.

Posted by: gunner at April 24, 2004 06:38 PM