With the death of Kim Jong-Il this past weekend, all eyes are on what’s next for North Korea. There’s already a good deal of analysis out there with the general consensus being that not much will change. With his son taking over and the military in line with the status quo, it looks pretty likely that the country will stay with its isolationist and completely bizarre course.
If you haven’t yet seen Vice magazine’s documentary on North Korea, you really need to. A good chunk of it is on Vice’s website—it’s an unprecedented and perhaps unparalleled snapshot of life within this strange, strange land. If anything, the film does a great job of showing how deeply ingrained the lunacy is, which is why it’s hard to imagine things changing quickly in light of the “blessed leader’s” death.
Which is too bad because life in North Korea—by all accounts—is brutal. On a technological level, the country only recently connected to the Internet. Regular citizens are only allowed to access it from libraries, where websites from other countries are blocked, according to Computerworld. Cellphone ownership on the country’s new 3G network is growing, although the 3G part is pretty irrelevant given that people can’t use their devices’ data capabilities.
Worse still, there are rampant food shortages and that whole thing where there’s no electricity. All of this is contributing to life expectancy actually dipping over the past few years, which is tragically out of whack with the rest of the world. Amidst it all, North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear armament. Talk about messed-up priorities.
As 2011 draws to a close, we inevitably reflect on the year that was and speculate on the year that will be. The past 12 months have been incredibly eventful and historic, with newfound freedom coming to several long-suffering parts of the world. With any luck, the analysts will be wrong and Kim Jong Il’s death will spur some change in North Korea in 2012. At least we can hope so.