Brave New Korea
Image taken from T-Shirt shop, The Affair
It has been reported for a while that the North Korean government has been manufacturing methamphetamines, also known as ‘crystal meth.’ In fact, due to the fact that they are a government-led effort, extremely high quality meth is produced, and they are highly-sought after overseas, according to defectors. In fact, North Korean diplomats have even been made to peddle these drugs, tasked to sell 20 kg (about 44 pounds) and raise $300,000; money that the country desperately needs to fuel its nuclear programs as well as its ruling elites’ lavish lifestyles.
Newsweek reported in 2011, when China, North Korea’s main target of its meth exports, tightened its border security on drugs, North Korea suddenly found itself with a surplus of meth that it couldn’t sell, and thus they started selling it within its own borders.
Inside North Korea, observers say, many use meth in place of expensive and hard-to-obtain medicine. “People with chronic disease take it until they’re addicted,” says one worker for a South Korea-based NGO, who requested anonymity in order to avoid jeopardizing his work with defectors. “They take it for things like cancer. This drug is their sole form of medication,” says the NGO worker, who has interviewed hundreds of defectors in the past three years.
A recent study in the journal, North Korea Review, suggests that about 40-50% of the people in the area bordering North Korea and China are addicted to meth. People in the north of the country have apparently started cooking their own meth to feed their addiction.
The idea of state-produced drugs turned on its own people to keep them docile, or otherwise benumbed to the pain, hunger, and suffering brought about by dismal living conditions from a dysfunctional economy is strikingly similar to Aldous Huxley’s ‘soma’ in his novel Brave New World.
“..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon…”
“I don’t understand anything,” she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. “Nothing. Least of all,” she continued in another tone “why you don’t take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you’d be jolly. So jolly,”
”Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I’m in a coma;
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love’s as good as soma.”
Like in Huxley’s London, meth abusers in North Korea see their drug as non-lethal — merely recreational, even medicinal. However, while people in Huxley’s London consume soma on a daily basis with no side effects, other than a strict addiction, Kim Jong Un’s North Korea cannot continue to see sustained use of meth in the long term, not without repercussions.
While it was reported that Kim Jong Un has ordered a crackdown on drug abuse in 2011, which remained largely unsuccessful, when the drug, which he has sanctioned the production of, is responsible for putting money into his coffers, and funding the state’s military program, what incentive does he have to stop? Furthermore, the surplus of meth being used as a substitute for more expensive medicines and painkillers help reduce the state’s healthcare costs. One’d imagine that the reclusive Brave New Korea is headed in a euphoric direction away from the rest of the world, its head wrapped up in its never-ending haze of drug-riddled poverty,
Let’s face it. Kim Jong Un is the crazy fat kid who has been given all the dangerous toys and has been totally spoiled by his parents. He desperately wants to play with the other kids, but he’s too violent and weird, so the other kids don’t want to play with him.
But we forget that Kim Jong Un alone isn’t North Korea, but also the legacy of the Juche ideology, the years of propaganda, the military advisers, and the structures imposed that have neatly kept everything where they should be.
History has shown that having a crazy dictator alone isn’t sufficient (Gaddafi, Saddam, King Louis XVI) to be worrisome if those below are given enough free reign to revolt. It’s only when those below are prevented from doing anything (through self-censorship and mutual censure), where prevailing regime gets to continue unchecked (kind of like Singapore, really, except we have shiny cars and even shinier COE’s) that things become worrisome.
Also, the world wants to play with Kim Jong Un, despite his tendency to tantrums, if only to prevent Kim from stomping home in a huff and abusing his pet dogs and turtles in a fit of anger because he didn’t want to play by other kids’ rules.
Thanks for reading, Becky. I love your email address by the way.