North Korea: We Don’t Need ‘Flashy Lights’
Religion & Liberty Online

North Korea: We Don’t Need ‘Flashy Lights’

A NASA image released in February 2014 shows a night view of the Korean Peninsula. Apart from a spot of light in Pyongyang, North Korea is mostly cloaked in darkness, with China (top left) and South Korea (bottom right) on either side. -Reuters

North Korea finally decided to comment on the most famous image of the nation. Almost exactly one year ago, NASA released several photos of the earth at night, showing many brightly lit nations and a shockingly dark North Korea. Last week, the Rodong Sinmun (“Workers’ Newspaper”), a state-run North Korean newspaper, ran an editorial that addressed the photo.

This editorial, “Right in Front of Our Eyes” is fairly typical propaganda, telling North Korean citizens that they should wholeheartedly follow and respect Kim Jong Un in order to “build a great nation.” The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Realtime Blog summarized it, saying that it makes only two points about the photo: “(1) let’s not get too hung up about having a functioning electrical grid, and (2) the photo actually represents the future of the U.S.” The editorial assures its citizens that “[North Korea’s detractors] clap their hands and get loud over a satellite picture of our city with not much light, but the essence of society is not on flashy lights.” Essentially, this brutal dictatorship equates a basic human need such as electricity to something “flashy” and denies that this photo is any sort of proof of failure.

Articles in Rodong Sinmun, usually include a line or two insulting or denouncing the U.S. and this was no different. It mentions some economic difficulties, the U.S. is facing and also says that, “[a]n old superpower that is meeting its sunset may put up a face of arrogance but it can’t avoid its dark fate.” Once again, this reminds me of Rev. Robert Sirico’s introduction to his book, “Defending the Free Market,” in which he describes the darkness in North Korea:

The one tiny point of light is Pyongyang, where party elites enjoy the fruits of the miserable labor of the North Korean people, who are essentially slaves. Otherwise, North Korea is simply dark.

The illuminated lower half of the peninsula offers us a vision of what the world looks like with freedom—the freedom to create, prosper, and, as is so obvious, even to illuminate. But you also have in that photograph an image of what the world might look like were the torch of human liberty to sputter out, casting civilization into darkness.

Rodong Sinmun may pretend that this image means nothing, but this simple photo is undeniable proof that as long as a nation ignores the dignity of the human person, does not allow for free enterprise, and systematically lies to its citizens among other atrocities it will never flourish. Let’s hope and pray that one day North Koreans will be indistinguishable from their neighbors with these “flashy” lights.