Thoughtcrime Thursdays: “Equilibrium,” North Korea, and the Surveillance State

Hello everyone and welcome back for another issue of Thoughtcrime Thursdays, the weekly column where we explore the world of fictional dystopia as a critique on our current society. This week, we are going to compare life under the North Korean Regime to life within the fictional regime in the 2002 film Equilibrium starring Christian Bale and Sean Bean.

In the film, it is the year 2072 and the totalitarian city-state of Libria has arisen from the ashes of WWIII. Libria is governed by the Tetragramaton Council and its mysterious leader, known only as “Father.” Seeking to prevent another world war, the regime has identified human emotion as being the main cause of war and conflict. Correspondingly  all human emotion and all forms of artistic expression are illegal.

The secret police force, the Grammaton Cleric, of which Christian Bale’s character is a member, enforces these laws by destroying artistic works and assuring that citizens take their scheduled doses of Prozium II, a drug which suppresses their ability to feel emotions. In many ways, citizens of Libria live in a complete surveillance state, where privacy is virtually nonexistent. Citizens are encouraged to spy on one another and report “sense offenders” for immediate execution.

The utter tyranny imagined in the film pales when compared with the real life abomination that is the North Korean regime. Like the film, citizens of North Korea live in a complete surveillance state. However, instead of the coercive administration of Prozium II, it is mandatory that every North Korean citizen regularly attend self-criticism sessions. In these sessions, individuals are expected to report their wrongdoings to the group and inform on the wrongdoings of other group members.

In order for the regime to completely dominate the populace, North Korean families are separated into 50 different castes according to their Songbun, a merit-based system which determines a family’s trustworthiness with the regime. Each caste is geographically confined to their corresponding districts within the country.  Freedom of movement does not exist, and every citizen must obtain and carry a permit to go anywhere. Furthermore, only the elite members of society are allowed to set foot in the city’s capital, Pyongyang.

Enemies of the Korean regime are either publicly executed or sent to prison camps. In the most severe cases, punishment for an individual’s infractions will be inflicted on their entire family–this means the extermination of three complete generations: the person’s children, siblings, and parents.

The incomprehensible repugnance of the Korean Regime cannot be fully documented here and the above infractions are merely a glimpse of the crimes against humanity being committed in North Korea.

In the fictional world, the film ends with the Tetragramaton overthrown and the people of Libria freed from the yoke of oppression. It must be assumed that in the aftermath of the revolution, the former citizens of Libria would exhaust or refuse to take their intervals of Prozium II and begin to feel emotion.

Because they had never before possessed the ability to feel, the former citizens of Libria would be completely unprepared to handle these new emotions. Likewise, life in North Korea is so propagandized that, if the North Korean Regime disappeared tomorrow, North Koreans would be similarly unprepared.

While Michael Malice notes that in the short term, there is little hope for the North Koreans, it is possible that the regime could collapse quickly and peacefully. For now, they are very much deserving of our thoughts and prayers.

Please stay tuned for the three-episode launch of the Liberty Weekly Podcast which will include an entire episode dedicated to discussing the Korean War and the resulting nightmare that is the North Korean Regime.

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