At present, only a limited number of countries can be described as totalitarian. North Korea, for example, can be brought up as an example of closed states with totalitarian features. Although it is officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it has a history of communism and dictatorship – democracy has never been a part of the nation’s political system. North Korea was founded after World War II in 1948 (Ishiyama, 2014). Since then, only three people have acted as its “supreme leaders” – Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. North Korea can be presented as an example of a country where propaganda and control over citizens have created a territory with closed borders and an economy separated from the rest of the world.
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Control by a Totalitarian Leader
Currently, North Korea is governed by Kim Jong n, who came to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. North Korea’s government built the country on communist principles – the citizens were promised free education, healthcare, and housing (Fifield, 2017). However, the state’s economy is not socialized to provide all citizens with needed services. The borders of North Korea are closed, and scholars cannot research the political regime of the country thoroughly.
It is known that the country’s officials use violence against those who oppose the regime. For example, any contact with people in China, South Korea, or the US is forbidden (Fifield, 2017). One of the most discussed examples of violence used as a political movement was the execution of Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle, ordered by the ruler on the grounds of treason (Ishiyama, 2014). This action suggests that the leader was afraid of his relative taking over the country.
All media outlets such as the press and television are monitored by the government; they contain political propaganda, which limits the information to construct a particular narrative. The final mechanism used in totalitarian regimes is scapegoating, but it is not as effective in North Korea in contrast with propaganda and violence. The state’s citizens are taught to believe in the superiority of their regime; questions and opposing opinions lead to imprisonment, labor, and execution. Nonetheless, some enemies such as South Korea and the US are often brought up as reasons for punishment (Fifield, 2017). Therefore, the government of the country can be considered totalitarian rather than communist.
Citizens in the Country
People in North Korea have to follow many rules in order to survive. More importantly, their status in the country depends on their familial relations and occupation. Those individuals whose families have connections with the police or politicians may feel safer in North Korea, although their future is also uncertain. An ideal citizen in this state is patriotic – North Korean education teaches children to value the prosperity of the nation above one’s personal happiness (Fifield, 2017). In the last few years, the government’s nuclear testing has been given significant attention – the funds supporting such research are allocated from the public fund (Ballbach, 2016).
Interestingly, voter apathy does not exist in the history of North Korea, as the one-party system was established with the country’s creation. It is unclear whether an opposition exists in North Korea. Currently, people smuggle foreign movies and music into the country, connect relatives from different countries, and open small businesses to earn additional money (Fifield, 2017). All acts of resistance propaganda are eliminated by other citizens and the secret police.
The history of North Korea shows how difficult it may be for its citizens to bring change to the country and overthrow the totalitarian regime. The country has had the same governmental system since its establishment, and its rulers use extreme violence to stop any opposition from forming. National propaganda is strengthened by closed borders and people’s inability to relocate and even express their opinions. Media and connections are controlled, and people are monitored by various organizations. North Koreans cannot actively engage in stopping the regime from exercising its power.
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Ballbach, E. J. (2016). North Korea’s emerging nuclear state identity. The Korean Journal of International Studies, 14(3), 391-414.
Fifield, A. (2017). Life under Kim Jong Un. The Washington Post. Web.
Ishiyama, J. (2014). Assessing the leadership transition in North Korea: Using network analysis of field inspections, 1997–2012. Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 47(2), 137-146.