Don’t Believe Everything You Hear About North Korea

The AP recently did a report inside North Korea, both confirming and countering many of the stories we’re told about the country through our media. If there’s one passage from the story that sums it up it’s this:

“The common thinking is that North Koreans are shut off from the rest of the world. But Robert Carlin, a former U.S. State Department official who has made dozens of trips to the country, once said it’s the opposite: We know less about North Korea than they know about us.”

The story describes a country slowly transitioning from the Cold War but filled with Mickey Mouse paraphernalia and other products of American culture.

Maybe it’s because I grew up black in a predominantly white suburb that I get the importance of not trusting media to understand anyone. Just as many people judge North Korea solely on what they hear on the nightly news, I spent much of my life being judged by what my peers saw on television. Kids would be surprised that I didn’t talk “ghetto” while teachers would tell my parents I “didn’t look like a TAG (Talented And Gifted) kid” and forced me to jump through hoops to get into advanced classes.

These obstacles often made me want to cut myself off from my town as a whole, much in the same way North Korea has such tight restrictions on media. However, I was only able to carve a niche for myself once I opened up to people willing to judge me for me. I still walk around town and get bug-eyed looks as if people like me weren’t in the tourist handbook but that’s out of my control.

Hopefully the AP will continue to be granted more access and Americans can see the truth about North Korea because the public opinion is the key to improving relations.

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