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In Wake of Nuclear Test, All Eyes on North Korea

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North Korea – the world’s most restrictive state – as well as its nuclear program, are known mainly through the media lens, especially via mainstream news outlets in the western world.

“Western media have swept the world, like CNN and BBC. Everyone watches them,” said Habibah Ashar, the 14th Tun Abdul Razak Chair at Ohio University. “The way a piece of news is written is typically based on the philosophy of the newspaper. If the paper is for North Korea, certainly North Korea will be viewed favorably; on the other hand, it can also be viewed negatively.”

She confirmed that western media typically portrays a negative view towards North Korea.

A Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Project survey conducted Sept. 18, 2012 shows that 13 percent of American adults cited North Korea as the greatest danger to the United States and 69 percent rated North Korea’s nuclear program as an “international financial instability.”

As the world’s most restrictive country, even leader Kim Jong Un and the first lady remain a mystery to the outside world – except the few reports of their wedding, almost exclusively through western mainstream media. The covered life of ordinary people dwelling in the last Stalinist country on earth comes into sight occasionally, depending on the venture of disguised journalists and humanitarian visits.

North Korea has undergone three underground nuclear tests since 2006, including the most recent one on Feb. 12, and launched a satellite aboard a long-range rocket, which probably failed (though the country officially claimed the opposite) in 2012.

“The North Koreans are intelligent people,” Habibah said. “I believe the [nuclear weapon] formula is available on the Internet, just like the [formula for the] atom bomb was.”
But she also admitted not knowing much about the North Korean nuclear program “to what extent is not known”.

 Su Kim, a South Korean who recently earned her master’s degree in journalism at Scripps, agreed that no one really knew to what degree the nuclear weapon was developed, but apparently “[The North Koreans] are doing something in the evil smart way; they are very manipulative, sneaky and playing games all the time.”

She said that though sometimes North Korea threatened to wage a war, South Koreans “do not really care.”
“If they [the North Koreans] push the button [on the nuclear weapon], they are gonna die, too, right?” Su pointed out.
Unlike her American fellow students who make a fuss about this kind of news, “we [South Koreans] are used to whatever way they are trying to threaten us and [we are] not as sensitive as how America or other countries react [to] it,” Su said.

 Korea was artificially divided by the United Nations. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the boundary of the two countries on the Korean peninsula. Despite its name, the area is one of the most heavily militarized in the world.

Su said that soldiers and police guarded the zone.

“They [North Koreans] are so poor. Literally they would swim across [the border] at risk to their lives because they’d get killed if they are caught.”

She said that aid from South Korea, like rice and money, all went to the military service, not regular citizens: “Only the dictator families are wealthy and have everything.

“I am officially sorry for the separation,” Su said.

Though Su does not have any relatives in North Korea, she still “feels bad” and thought the two countries “should reunite.”

“Korea is the only country in the world that is separated now after Germany got united,” Su said.

She said that the two countries even developed different meanings for the same words and different dialects and accents for certain words as a consequence of the long time separation.

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