Readers think that North Korea is more evil than Iraq and Iran

Back in September I ran a questionnaire asking readers to examine George Bush’s 2002 Axis of Evil: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.  My last two articles have looked at your perceptions of Iran and Iraq.  Today it is North Korea’s turn.

What do we know?

What struck me is how little readers know about North Korea, with 12 per cent of respondents claiming ignorance. Half of them say they know little because of North Korea’s isolation and lack of press freedoms – in fact 17 per cent of the readers mentioned that the country was isolated or closed, one going as far as to say it was “the most secret place on earth”.

A staggering 91 per cent of respondents said their perceptions of North Korea were influenced by the news media and only 5 out of 100 by direct personal experience. (NB: 76 per cent for Iran and 83 per cent for Iraq were influenced by the news media).

Truly evil?

And yet, despite an acknowledgment that our perceptions were formed third hand by the media and that many felt they really “didn’t know” North Korea, the country scored highest of the three Axis countries in terms of “Evil”. Readers have so far shied away from the direct rhetoric of evil in their views of Iraq and Iran – some even challenging the notion. But for North Korea 10 per cent claim it not just a dangerous time bomb, but significantly or very evil. An example of comments: “the regime is truly evil”, it has “Evil leaders” and even in capital letters “IT IS AN EVIL COUNTRY”.

I am curious by the capital letter shouts, and how when responding about Iran they were none. As before, I can’t help but muse over the fact that the more direct experience and the less our views are formed by the news media, the less angry we are about the situation – and the more positive and less polarised are our perceptions.  I will say more about this in my next and final Axis of Evil piece, which looks at today’s evil places.

Oppressed and brainwashed

The headline finding for perceptions of North Korea was that over a quarter of readers felt that her citizens were oppressed, suffering, even “brainwashed”. Nearly 20 per cent mentioned its dictatorship. Many expressed pity and sorrow, some used the word “genocide” and 5 per cent mentioned poverty and hunger. Two bravely suggested that North Korea was ripe for an Egypt-style revolution.

Kim Jong gone

The survey was carried out before the death of Kim Jong-il. Many made mention that once his leadership was over, the country stood a chance to improve. Some offered the leaders mental instability as an overriding perception of North Korea – with words like paranoid, deluded, and plain “nuts” frequently appearing. Others felt more cynical about the only communist dynasty in the world and thought problems went much further than Kim Jong-il.

A pawn in the China/USA game

One person saw progress and enlightenment for North Korea in the hands of her allies, the Chinese. In fact 9 per cent offered a perception of North Korea that mentioned China; the same number that saw North Korea in terms of her relationship with the USA. One person claimed the country was but a pawn in the China/USA game, and several felt that China was using North Korea in the same was as it used Pakistan – to counter South East Asian countries and India.  In fact four people compared North Korea to Pakistan. And one person leveled blame for the situation at Russia. Only 6 out of a 100 mentioned tensions with South Korea – interesting, as most online information sources won’t fail to mention the state of war between the two Koreas.

Not 100 per cent evil

If Bush was so wrong about the other two, he must be wrong about this one too!

Despite many seeing North Korea as nuclear and defence-obsessed, and a “hell-on-earth” pariah state where people starve – one person claimed it was truly “wonderful”. The respondent felt that there were “people there that can take care of themselves” and that “no outside help” was needed. Three per cent said it posed no real threat and 5 per cent were impressed by how it stood up to the USA. One person simply wrote “Kim Sung II is God”.

In my next piece on evil perceptions I will look at your candidates for today, draw conclusions from the overall findings, and pick apart how useful it is to consider any one nation as “Evil”.

Results in more detail:

25 per cent felt that North Koreans were oppressed people.

19 per cent said North Korea was a dictatorship/totalitarian.

17 per cent perceived North Korea as being in a state of Isolation/hidden/closed.

12 per cent didn’t know anything about North Korea.

11 per cent said it was dangerous/terrorists (with 5 per cent mentioning “Evil”).

11 per cent mentioned that it was communist.

9 per cent saw North Korea in terms of its relationship to the USA.

9 per cent said it had been “ruined” by its leader9 per cent  mentioned China’s influence on North Korea.

8 per cent said North Korea was nuclear/obsessed with defence.

8 per cent mentioned Kim Jong il and that North Korea was “waiting for its new leader”.

7 per cent said the country was on a different planet/nuts/deluded.

6 per cent mentioned South Korea.

5 per cent said North Korea was a brave state, which stands up for itself.

5 per cent mentioned poverty/hunger.

5 per cent had a bad/negative even “horrible” view of North Korea.

4 per cent said North Koreo was paranoid.

4 per cent compared it to Pakistan.

3 per cent said it had the potential to rival the USA.

3 per cent mentioned it was a failed state.

3 per cent said North Korea was not a real threat at all.


Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and diplomacy. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011. More about Caroline’s work and her contact details can be found on and facebook.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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