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Is Kim Jong Un’s Sarcasm Ban a Reason for Optimism in North Korea?

September 12, 2016 by Christopher Walsh
Kim Jong Un has taken the ludicrous step of banning sarcasm in North Korea and it’s “all America’s fault.”

Kim Jong Un has taken the ludicrous step of banning sarcasm in North Korea and it’s “all America’s fault.”

According to reports, more North Koreans are mocking the regime and Kim Jong Un doesn’t like it. A common refrain in the country has become “It’s all America’s fault,” said ironically in situations where the government is obviously to blame.

The more intriguing part of this story, however, is that Kim Jong Un’s sarcasm crackdown indicates Pyongyang’s control over its people is slipping.  North Koreans are daring to ridicule the regime and its “Dear Leader.” This is bold in a country that imprisons “thought crime” perpetrators in gulags.

 

In a recent interview with The Atlantic, defector Jung Gwang Il described minor acts of defiance he’s heard about from sources inside the country; they include graffiti calling for the Kim Dynasty’s collapse and people referring to the “Dear Leader” disrespectfully as “Jong Un.”  As Jung put it, such acts were “unthinkable during the Kim Jong Il or Kim Il Sung era.”

Ongoing efforts to break North Korea’s information barriers may be breeding this defiance.  As shown in this infographic, refugees, civil society, and democratic governments are finding ways to disseminate information inside North Korea and expose the regime’s lies. 

Whether it be radio broadcasts or popular South Korean dramas on flash drives, information starved North Koreans risk their lives to consume this illegal content.  As they’re exposed to foreign media and gain broader perspectives from the outside world, the regime’s infallibility crumbles.

 

Banner Image Photo credit: Reuters/KCNA


Author

Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh

Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.  In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight. 

Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.

A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies.  He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.

Full Bio