Monday, August 23, 2010

Experiences of North Korea?



Thinking about North Korea

North Korea (or DPRK) has one of the worst human rights records in the world, whilst it is impossible to leave the country or access information (legally) from the countries outside its parameters. Further to this, the North Koreans have suffered from famine for more than ten years because of their difficult terrain and because the Communist government refuses to distribute rice and grain effectively to its people. In the past, North Korea has been somewhat overlooked by the British press although recently alleged nuclear threats seem to have put DPRK on our newsroom radar. We have all (rightly) heard about children in Ethopia suffering from kwashiorkor (swollen belly) but not those who live in the small country north of the prosperous South Korea. If you read papers in the USA and Australia, there are more reports on the tragedies of DPRK, as well as more NGOs and charities who raise money and awareness for the nation. I think this is partly due to geographical location - Australia and America are nearer or bordering on to the Asia Pacific rim (definitions vary). It may also be because of our post colonial histories. The British Empire occupied several African countries, taking valuable minerals before decolonising, so now feels a responsibility to offer some relief / aid. The USA intervened heavily in the Korean war and its consequential South Korean military government and surrounding cold war hysteria.  Arguably, the USA contributed to the country's division and North Korea's subsequent hardships and alienation. Britain have had little to do with Korea historically other than sending some troops out to help in the Korean war. 

Amnesty International is one of the global organisations which reports on the issues taking place in North Korea. For example, the recent article on the Crumbling Health System in North Korea. There are also a number of Christian, refugee and other charities, often located in the USA.http://www.helpinghandskorea.org/ and see charities and NGOS re North Korea

One of the projects on which I'm currently working concerns the pursuit of North Korean refugee artists or people who are making art about their experiences. It is difficult to locate refugees as they are often in hiding and live anonymous existences for fear that they will be found out and that their families back home will face execution or concentration camps. As well as the horrific side of everyday life in DPRK, our project also wants to document the more mundane experiences of every day life - without the sensationalism (e.g. the documentaries recently shown on BBC2 & 3 or Kim Jong Il's portrayal in Team America!)

If anyone has any knowledge of North Korea or if you are a North Korean yourself who wishes to remain anonymous and you would like to take part in a project, please contact me. As it is early days I don't want to display publically the current rationale behind the project. I just need to hear a few voices on the subject. And they need to be heard.

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