It is amazing that North Korea has even participated in this year’s London 2012 Olympics. The Olympics are the only time in the year when citizens outside of the Kim family aristocracy are allowed to leave the nation because of Kim Jong-un’s irrational fear of his citizens’ ideological corruption from the West. Even once the Olympic team had come all the way to London, doubt remained over whether North Korea would participate. After mistakenly displaying the South Korean flag (the flag of the nation that North Korea has officially been at war with since 1950) instead of the North Korean flag before a women’s soccer game last Wednesday, North Korea protested and refused to start the match for over an hour until the International Olympics Committee formally apologized for the mishap.
More amazing than North Korea’s mere participation in the Games, though, is the nation’s performance. With more medals than even host nation Britain thus far, North Korea has shocked the world with its Olympic performance of late. The performance of the isolationist ‘Hermit Kingdom,’ however, is not something to look upon with awe, but rather disgust. It is well known and documented that North Koreans’ daily caloric consumption less than ½ of that of America or Western European nations. Much of this caloric intake is from grass and insects, as food rations from the Communist regime are infrequent and unsubstantial. Yet, somehow, the North Korean Olympic athletes are able to acquire the proper nutrition and caloric requirements to perform at par with internationally recognized weightlifters and judo fighters.
Much like the Soviet nations in the late 1900s, North Korea is prioritizing sport over the welfare of its citizens. Threatened by the lack of influence that its Communist ideology has had since the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea aims to promote the strength of its Communist society in other ways, most notably through sport. As the international community has few glimpses into the closed nation he rules, Kim Jong-un hopes to portray North Korean society very differently than it truly is. By showcasing to the world only the ‘best’ of North Korea (i.e. the strongest, best fed citizens), he aims to create the illusion that all Western views of the DPRK are flawed and that, in actuality, North Korea is prosperous enough to devote extensive resources to training athletes for the Olympics.
The North Korean Olympic performance highlights one of the issues that have plagued North Korea since Kim Il-sung imposed Stalinist Communism on the nation in 1948. Despite being a self-declared Communist state, economic inequality in the nation is extremely high. The Kim regime, currently led by Kim Jong-un, devotes welfare and resources that a Communist State would ideally devote to the lower class to the ruling elite and a selected few conservative nationalist allies of the regime. It is estimated that the Kim family dynasty is worth tens of billions of dollars gained from the nation’s collectivized agriculture meant to redistribute profits to the poor. Instead though, the rich ironically are the only ones benefitting from the Communist society.
The Kim regimes tyrannical rule has progressed for far too long. The stance of the international community has largely been to let the regime die a natural death; after all, most nations figured that the isolationism and repression of North Korean dictators was unsustainable. However, the time for waiting has elapsed. It is time for the international community to lead a charge to overthrow the illegitimate ruler Kim Jong-un. Much as they did in Libya, NATO or the UN Security Council should decide on definitive action aiming at applying political pressure on the regime. This action could include but not be limited to more stringent sanctions, or even military action. Granted, the Arab Springs protests have shown that often times the political vacuum following the fall of an oppressive regime is filled by an equally repressive regime (e.g. Egypt). However, there have been successful regime topples, such as Libya’s. Libya is currently transitioning into democracy. With international support in toppling the Kim regime and replacing it with a more enlightened government, the international community has the potential to make North Korea a success story just like Libya.