Ever since my middle school days, I've been fascinated by dystopian fiction. Uber-controlling societies. Government conspiracies. Forbidden romances. I mean, what's not to love?
Not only do these books create strange-and-scary worlds, they also make me ask questions.
What would it be like to live in a colorless world with little joy or pain? (The Giver)
What would it be like to in a society where books were banned and burned? (Fahrenheit 451)
And what would it be like to live in a country where teenagers must fight to the death in a reality show gone haywire? (The Hunger Games)
Whenever I finish one of these books, I always get a bit of a chill. After all, it's such a relief that these controlling societies only exist in the realm of fiction.
But as I watched the World Cup this week—namely the game between Brazil and the PRK—I realized that the dystopian genre isn't a mere work of fiction. I mean, just take one look at North Korea! It's chilling how life in this isolated country resembles some of the worlds in my favorite dystopian novels.
Totalitarian government? Check.
Carefully-controlled media? Check.
Cult of personality? Oh yeah, a big fat check on this one.
So crazy, ain't it?
I've known for years that North Korea has had a terrible regime and has committed multiple human rights' violations against its own people. And yet, I've never put two-and-two together that North Korea is a real dystopia.
From detention camps to religious persecution to severe malnutrition, the citizens of North Korea live in a world of complete isolation and government control. One of the World Cup commentators even mentioned how most of the PRK's soccer team had never seen a cell phone before. You'd think that this sort of stuff was concocted by some crazy writer who lives in a cabin in the woods—but it's not.
And so, I don't think I can read dystopian fiction in the same way again. I used to read this genre with a sigh of relief that it's only fiction, that it's some sort of make-believe. But dystopian societies certainly exist right now—over 23 million people live with it every day.
Life imitating art, art imitating life?