North Korean Propaganda Distracts from the “Hermit Kingdom’s” Real Problems
Seth McKinnis /
A purported new North Korean propaganda video asserts Americans live in tents, make coffee from snow, and live off birds. At least that is what its English voiceover portrays.
News sites rapidly reposted the video, including Wired’s Danger Room, Slate, the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Atlantic. Even The Washington Post and Time carried the story.
Apparently no news sources actually verified the voiceover, which does not reflect the actual North Korean narrative, according to a Heritage Foundation translation. While the video is genuine North Korean propaganda, the voiceover is British satire. Alun Hill, an independent travel writer from the United Kingdom, posted the satire with his own voiceover.
The original propaganda video was posted by the official North Korea propaganda website, Uriminzokkiri, on its YouTube account on March 2. It was titled “Reality of Capitalism becoming Even More Gloomy and Hopeless.”
The actual North Korean propaganda does not mention eating of birds or drinking “coffee made from snow” but does claim that Americans “miss socialism because people did not have to starve back then.” But that doesn’t mean that the real North Korean video isn’t full of inaccuracies. For one, much of the video’s footage is not from America, including scenes shot in front of Paris’s Gare du Nord rail station.
In reality, it is North Korea that suffers from abject poverty, food shortages, and prison camps. According to a BBC article, North Korea’s economy is in “a dire strait” with per capita income at $1,800 per year. In comparison, South Korean GDP is $31,714 per capita.
Hunger and starvation is widespread in North Korea. During the mid-1990s famine, between 1 million and 2 million North Koreans may have died of starvation and disease. Starvation and abject cruelty create a vicious life for many. With a large income disparity between the elites and the masses, some reportedly resort to cannibalism.
Every day, the North Korean government issues vastly distorted and overstated news about theUnited States.
Recently, there have been increasing levels of intercultural connection between North Koreaand the outside world. As The Economist noted last year, “During the past decade information has flowed—albeit illegally—both into and out of North Korea…through digital media and old-style broadcasting such as Voice of America and the Korean Broadcasting System.”
Now “North Koreans can get more outside information…than ever before.” More North Koreans covertly learn about life outside theHermitKingdomthrough the black market and illegal news sources.
We may well expect increasingly extreme North Korean propaganda regarding the U.S. Someday the real propaganda may be as unbelievable as Alun Hill’s voiceover.
Seth McKinnis is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.