Google has mapped North Korea. The Washington Post has useful selection of before and after images. Compare the images for North Korea with a map of the county in which you live and you will get a sense of North Korea’s poverty. Britain is debating the merits of cutting the rail journey time between London and Brum by 10 minutes; North Korea has only the most basic road infrastructure. Small wonder, then, that the North Korean economy is so parlous that the Kims have accommodated a nascent form of capitalism in order to stave off mass starvation; an important point among many made by Victor Cha in The Impossible State, published last year.
Google’s sparse maps of North Korea may seem impersonal; but the absence of dense marks of civilization says something of the human suffering wrought by the Kim regime. There are more definite signs of terror, too. You can see, highlighted in brown, one of the vast concentration camps that provide the Kims a constant source of labour and a means of absolute control.
Shin Dong-hyuk was born in one these camps 30-odd years ago. He escaped first to North Korea’s interior, then to China and finally to the West. He is the only person known to have done so. You can read about his extraordinary story, and his self-confessed struggle to ‘become human’ after having survived in the darkest recesses of the Kims’ dictatorship, by reading this interview with the Spectator.
Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.