For all of the weird stuff I experienced in North Korea, I did not expect to have matching levels of weirdness when I returned to the states.
This has come in the form of the unusual reactions from Internet critics and trolls about my trip to the DPRK.
Although most feedback has been very positive about my photo-journal, there’s that percentage of haters on forums, YouTube, and even real-life that want to paint my experiences and interpretations about the country in a bad light.
The first half are the people with preconceived notions about North Korea and claim that my positive experiences in the country must be a fabrication. After-all, it’s part of the “Axis of Evil” and so reports of happy North Koreans who love Americans is surely a lie. I’ve dealt with these people on various social media platforms, with at least one guy who initially tried to claim that I did not even go to North Korea–the entire thing was a fabrication; his proof being that a National Geographic documentary from 4 years go said that Americans were not allowed in the country. So, obviously, I shot photos of South Korea and combined them with existing photos of North Korea on the web to create a publicity stunt.
I pretty much expected that I’d have to deal with these types of people. You’ll always encounter haters no matter what you do, especially on the web. But, what I did not expect was the nature of the other half of the criticism I’ve received through comments and e-mails; people who feel I am being too harsh toward the poor North Korean government.
Despite the fact many of my reports show the country in a positive light, such as the Pyongyang Friendship Fair, there’s been a surprising number of critics who have told me that I am bias that the country is “evil”, and therefore my reports are not objective. This is primarily in response to my post about the Orwellian loudspeakers in Pyongyang, and how on a couple of occasions I’ve used livid language to describe the government of the DPRK (“dripping with evil”).
One guy I dealt with even claimed the North Korean government is wonderful, and every Western report is just propaganda… Now, politically I lean a little toward the left, but there’s no way I could relate to a position this extreme. Supporting the North Korean communist government and criticizing my report as being “unfair” to the DPRK is so far to the extreme left that it actually comes full-circle and becomes no different from extreme-right support of fascism. It’s the same thing.
I’ll say right now that I fully support any statement I’ve made that describes the country as “evil”. It absolutely is evil. Those loudspeakers on the street would not be “Orwellian” in a country that does not oppress it’s people. Yes, loudspeakers exist in other countries like Japan, but they’re not full of fascist propaganda. In a kingdom where criticizing the government is punishable by death, and the GDP is allocated toward massive parades and building giant monuments instead of feeding famine stricken citizens–you are dealing with some seriously twisted shit.
And this evil is isolated to whatever cabal runs the country. It’s not the North Korean people who are evil, and I don’t even think it’s Kim Jong Un calling the shots– it’s generals and military leaders who control the country from their upper echelon much like a mafia.
It’s up to the outside world to shed light on North Korea and help people learn about the wonderful, friendly people in the country, and to bring faces to those who are being forcefully oppressed by one of the worst regimes on Earth. We also have a chance to continue to make a peaceful effort to connect with the North Korean people, and to help them learn that the world beyond their society is not out to get them.
As for the people who believe North Koreans are all unanimously evil, or the bizarre regime defenders who flip out when I call a spade a spade–all I can say is I believe the Internet brings out the worst in some people. If you’ve actually been to the country I’ll listen to your point of view, otherwise all you’re really doing is trolling.
Support my work chronicling North Korea and other places in the world by becoming a citizen photo-journalist yourself and purchasing a Canon Rebel t3i from my affiliate store below, and I’ll make a tiny percentage of the sale. Buying a good DSLR was one of the best purchase decisions in my life. Even with a cheap lens, I still produce great images on the t3i because this professional grade camera has such a good sensor.