North Korea (officially named the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) is a single-party Communist state in south-east Asia, ruled since 1949 by the Korean Workers' Party (KWP). Regarded by many in the international community as a pariah state (meaning that it is an outcast), North Korea has in recent years become increasingly poverty-stricken, with many of its citizens having barely enough food to survive.
The KWP is kept in power largely thanks to a combination of international concern for North Korean citizens and the patronage of the Chinese government, which exports large quantities of food to North Korea in return for KWP assistance in certain areas. Until the 1990's, North ...view middle of the document...
This has to be taken in the context of the considerable global recession that has been in play since 2008, the results from which North Korea was largely shielded due to its insularity. In general terms, the North Korean economy is still far poorer than most other Asian nations.
Given the poor state of the nation's economy, North Korea's government has to rely upon the cult of personality in order to keep the population in check. Most art in the country venerates, either directly or indirectly, the 'great leader' Kim il-Sung or his successor, the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Among the population, there is a strong level of belief in such apparent absurdities as the idea that Kim il-Sung created the entire world, or that Kim Jong-il controls the weather (Martin, 2004).
State media sources are tightly controlled so as to prevent the North Korean public from accessing any information that does not come from the country's strict government bureau of information, and this means that many North Koreans are grossly misinformed about the position of North Korea in the world and believe, for example, that their meagre lifestyles are preferable to the terrible conditions in other countries. Visitors to North Korea routinely report tight levels of control, with mobile phones confiscated for the duration of the visit and all movement tracked by an official government-supplied 'tourist guide'.
North Korea is widely regarded as one of the most insular nations on Earth, and has been nicknamed 'The Hermit Kingdom' by some. Nevertheless, North Korea is relatively active on the global stage. In 2010, the country fielded a team at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and although they scored only one goal and suffered three defeats in their three games, this was seen as something of a breakthrough for North Korean sport (although the squad was publicly humiliated by the government upon its return, as punishment for its failure).
With most cultural production being focused on the cult of personality surrounding Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il, North Korean art tends to be viewed by foreign observers purely as a curiosity: even the country's most popular songs are odes to the leader's brilliance and resilience. Film-making in North Korea is an area that Kim Jong-Il focuses on with particular passion, often visiting film sets to 'help' directors with their movies, which are inevitably thinly-veiled allegories concerning the fight of the communist government against the 'evil' west, particularly the United States. Again, these films tend to be seen overseas only due to their curiosity value.
North Korea's government has a reputation for its strict punishment of anyone who dares defy its orders, and an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 political prisoners are currently serving in harsh political gulags, or work camps. When the United States Committee for Human Rights in North Korea produced a report on the gulags a few years ago, it explicitly drew comparisons...