The Democracy Club and the rest of the world – Part 2/2

In March 2012, I attended a lecture by Adam Johnson, the author of “The Orphan Master’s Son“. Johnson gave us a glimpse into the mysterious Hermit Kingdom of North Korea. Although many call North Korea’s government a dictatorship, it appears to be more of a monarchy since the leadership has passed from father to son twice.

“No one has written a literary novel in 60 years… No one has read a book that’s not propaganda for 60 years,” Johnson said of North Korea.

Johnson spent six years reading everything he could find on North Korea. In addition, he interviewed a number of people that once lived there or had visited. He also watched every YouTube video on North Korea he could find. Then he traveled there as sort of a tourist in 2007.  It wasn’t easy gaining permission.

While in North Korea, Johnson saw a country that was hungry for food, power and money. The trucks and cars he saw on the roads were coming out of the same factories that were manufacturing the same models in the 1950s with no changes.  In addition, appliances manufactured in North Korea were the same models that were made six decades ago.  North Korea is a country trapped in a time warp.

In an interview with Sheila Himmel of the Stanford Magazine, Johnson said there was daily loudspeaker propaganda. “If you’re caught tampering with your loudspeaker (everyone has one in their home and workplace), that’s something that could send you to a prison mine.”

Himmel wrote, “Johnson knew he had to visit North Korea to put flesh on the bones of his research. After being turned down twice for a visa as a visiting scholar, Johnson met a Korean War orphan whose NGO planted apple orchards in North Korea.  As the orchardist’s assistant, he got a tourist visa.

“I would walk the streets and people would not even look up at me. They were Afraid to,” Johnson said.

Johnson stayed in the Yanggak Island hotel, staffed by Chinese, “So we didn’t even get to meet a North Korean citizen at breakfast,” Johnson said.

More than an hour with Adam Johnson – Live from the library.

The hotel was located on an island and was only open two weeks a year for the Airirang festival celebrating the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding autocrat (emperor/king as far as I’m concerned). Even then, only two floors were occupied out of forty-nine and the only lights that were on were on those two floors. The other 47 floors were dark and abandoned.

While Johnson was in North Korea, he was told that the DPRK was the most democratic nation in the world. “They’d say to Johnson, ‘How many people turned out to your last election?’ About 60 percent. ‘We’re 100 percent. We’re more democratic!’ ”

However, being a democratic country, which North Korea isn’t (it’s also not a republic), may not be all that desirable. After all, America’s Founding Fathers created a republic in the United States, because they hated democracy believing it morphed into mob rule and eventually a dictatorship, and George Washington, in his farewell letter to the people as he left the presidency, warned Americans against multiple political parties competing with each other because that led to divisiveness and rancor.

Return to The Democracy Club and the rest of the world – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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2 Responses to The Democracy Club and the rest of the world – Part 2/2

  1. hyperspacer says:

    Patrick Moynihan, US senator and one time ambassador to India who is widely perceived to be a friend of India once remarked that India is a large country that behave small. In fact India has unsettled border disputes with all her neighbors save Bhutan, which is an Indian protectorate. Contrast this with China that has settled amicably, and often at huge cost, 12 of its 14 land boundaries with her neighbors. The only two that wasn’t settled are India and Bhutan. The reason China has no boundary settlement with Bhutan is because India does not allow Bhutan to.

    • Thank you

      Your comment brings up this long question—Why is it that the major Western media (the big six) mostly ignores the good (positive) things that China has accomplished since 1949 such as settling these border problems amicably; improving health care so the average age in China is now more than twice what was it was in 1949 (it was 35 then and today the average age is about 75); the reduction in poverty (more than any country on earth–90% of global poverty reduction in the last 30 years was in China) from about 85% in 1949 to less than 13% today; the increase in literacy, which was 20% in 1976 and is more than 92% today and the fact that since the Great Leap Forward famine ended in 1961, China has not had any famines and loss of life from starvation and this in a country that had famines that caused the loss of life from starvation annually in one or more provinces of China for more than 2,000 years; and last but not lest the growing middle class that never existed in these numbers in China’s history?

      I forgot something. In 1949, the CCP made women equal to men and legally ended bondage for women where they were once treated as merchandise to be sold and bartered as if they were pieces of furniture. For comparison, in the US, it took more than a century of effort on the part of women to bring this about while it happened in the first year the CCP ruled China. In fact, slavery ended in the US long before women were freed from being the chattel of men and still the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified by the US Congress while religious zealots in the US argue and continue to fight for laws that will take away a woman’s right to make decision about their bodies when it comes to birth/abortion.

      And when I write about these facts on this Blog, I have been accused of being too pro-China.

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