June 16, 2010

A Real Life Dystopia

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.

It's real.

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?


  1. Wow! I'd always known about the situation in North Korea, but I've never seen it as a dystopia. Now that you mention it, you're totally right. I only wish it wouldn't be so.

    By the way, I gave you an award on my blog. Go check it out!

  2. I'd never thought about it like that. Scary thought!

    Found you at Amparo's blog. :)

  3. After watching a documentary a few weeks ago about North Korea, I thought the same thing, Caroline. Scary. :-/