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North Korea: Truly evil?

Published Jan 05, 2012 04:29pm


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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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Caroline Jaine is a UK based writer, artist and film-maker with a background in media strategy, training and international relations. Her main research interests are in the perception of places and people as presented in the media. Her book A Better Basra, about her time in Iraq was published in August 2011.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (12) Closed

IMRAN BAPU Jan 05, 2012 01:59pm
Caroline Jaine As a writer u are doing great job. keep it high world deserve writers like you. God bless you.
Asad Jan 05, 2012 02:31pm
Good work Jaine - I also attended your Karachi-Cambridge presentation (movie) you gave at Oxford University. I strongly believe in this "travelling is death to all the prejudices" All the best!
abdussamad Jan 05, 2012 02:48pm
LOL they should have asked them about Pakistan. I imagine 100% would have said Pakistan is evil with none of them having ever set foot on Pakistani soil. Its surveys like these that expose who the really brainwashed people are!
Murali, Atlanta, USA Jan 05, 2012 08:13pm
Forgetting the media fanfare for a minute every TRULY knowledgeable reader knows that N.Korea is much less evil than many countries that the US considers as its closest allies ( I don't want to risk naming them & prevent my comments from seeing the light of the day!). It's a pity that the otherwise immensely talented/hard working N.Koreans remain among the most oppressed, ignorant, brainwashed people on the face of this earth, so much so that they almost behave like Zombies! A classic display of that group mentality was the large-scale public mourning at the passing away parade of Kim Il Jhong! And, the N.Korean leaders themselves remain subservient to the Chinese who are the real forces behind the scenes…. to prevent American influence washing up their shores in the event of reunification……understandably so given the 10's of thousands of US troops stationed on the Korean peninsula. The only people who are losers in this great-power play between the US & China are the N.Koreans themselves.....and to a much lesser extent the S.Koreans (& thereby all Koreans) who will have to wait to realize their dream of a unified, strong, assertive Korea rivaling their centuries old adversary imperial Japan! Murali-Atlanta-USA
Anand Jan 06, 2012 05:14am
Good work Jaine. God Bless you for living in the UK while pointing out the joys for N Korean Citizens.
Nabil Saleh Jan 06, 2012 09:55am
US has the habit of going after one country or the other at some point the case of North Korea...however impressive is the way they make complete fools out of their people each time they wish to indulge in such misadventures........the average american needs to think beyond what is fed to them for their own good if nothing else.
Sunil Jan 06, 2012 09:55am
@Abdussamad: so what are your opinions about Israel?
Sharma Anil ( India Jan 06, 2012 10:24am
North Korea has become an impoverished country and the South Korea its mega-rich brother. The enmity between the two nations will continue to grow. Pakistan has also become an impoverished country and India its some-what richer brother.
articial flower brid Jan 06, 2012 02:08pm
I think what media potray about north korea must be much sober than what is transpiring there as there is no media access and the secrecy with which it operates.
Nasah (USA) Jan 06, 2012 08:05pm
My question -- has Ms. Caroline Jaine lived in North Korea herself and if so for how long -- or are her opinions about North Korea made by George Bush as well?
Bryan Jan 07, 2012 10:59am
I find it fascinating that people can even consider an entire country as being evil. Why is North Korea evil? Is it because of its two nuclear bombs? The united states have thousands. Sure they are fed propaganda and Kim jong il's insaine ideologies, but that made him evil not the country. If you think about it most people on this earth are brainwashed by the media and the governments of the countries they reside in. The people of North Korea live in desolate conditions that can be considered hell but but that does not make it evil. Is North Korea Scary? If you go there then yes its ridiculously scary, but the thing that makes it scary to me is the fact that I'm from Canada and could be confused as an American. I think the world needs not to worry as much about North Korea since the passing of the late leader. Evil is Individual.
Lorenzo Jan 07, 2012 11:37am
North Korea is branded evil only by the West and USA...why..?.. because they now have Atomic Bomb as well...So whichever nation tries to get A.Bomb, will be branded 'evil'...but on the other hand..Western Nation and USA, Russia, Israel, with hundreds of A.Bombs in possession are not 'Evil".. ..!! In plain English language it is called Big Time “HYPOCRITES"