The heavy veil on life in North Korea was lifted a little with a startling BBC exposé documentary North Korea Undercover and SBS’ Insight program on Tuesday night, giving a glimpse of what life is really like under such a repressive regime.
North Korea Undercover created a furore not because of its disturbing content but because journalist John Sweeney recruited a number of students from the London School of Economics to act as a front enabling him to gather facts and rare footage – international journalists are banned from North Korea but international student visitors are not.
The mission without doubt was extremely dangerous, but did expose the dire situation in North Korea. The constant propaganda and excessive control that North Koreans live with is the stuff of nightmares. That people are forced to live under such oppression in the twenty-first century is a harsh reminder to those of us in more fortunate, liberal countries that we simply must not take our freedom for granted. And this means not giving our governments too much power.
Critics of the CIS’ work sometimes label us as hard-hearted capitalists whose sole agenda is to advance ourselves at others’ expense. We certainly believe in enlightened self-interest, but it’s wrong to assume there is no compassion or concern for others involved, or that we support an anarchist state. At the core of classical liberalism is the unwavering belief that the best chance humanity has to prosper is when people have the right to speak and act freely under the rule of law, governed by a small and genuinely democratically elected government in a free market environment.
The CIS recently launched a key initiative to reduce the size of government lest we find ourselves with the problems and dwindling freedoms of Europe, or God forbid, North Korea. The TARGET30 campaign seeks to drop government spending to 30% of GDP within the next decade. Curbing state expenditure is critical – increased spending means increased bureaucracy to administer that spending, and the danger of slipping down the slope towards big and obtrusive government.
Glimpsing the cold, grey and loudspeakered world of North Korea was a sharp reminder why I work for the CIS.
Meegan Cornforth is the Events Manager at The Centre for Independent Studies and has been with the Centre for five years.