on the free people of north korea

North Korea is a society that prizes free expression. They resent the very notion that people don’t change their minds, and their people in fact pride themselves on the ability to update their opinions as new information comes in. They are an open society and they use critical opinion to weed out bad ideas.

The ability to remove the powerful without violence is a hallmark of the North Korean way, and their leaders routinely resign from powerful positions when their prominent media spotlight corruption and nepotism. People can live there freely without fear that their words will get them killed. Theirs is a society that reads multiple points of view, and recognizes the fallible nature of the individual. They understand that individuals are all limited by time and a varying capacity for knowledge acquisition, and that even the most highly able learners in their society may be at times biased in favor of ill conceived notions. They cherish science and their heroes are intellectuals and the institutions that make them possible. The university is a playground. Books are recess. They seek knowledge and understanding. They are pragmatic but ambitious in their ways.

Dogmatism is frowned upon. Humility is a virtue. Controversial opinions are tolerated as a matter of principle. They understand that the best way to handle hateful speech is through more speech. Decency and respect for their fellow citizen is fundamental to the North Korean style. If they offend you, they immediately find ways to rectify the situation. If you offend them, their ethos is based on the framework that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never, can never hurt me”. Their people and their country are anti-fragile. They are not afraid of failure, and they are especially not afraid of getting hurt.

Respect for the institutions that make their society a success is paramount, but they do not idealize them to the extent that they are unwilling to change them where necessary and prudent. They see not limit to their ability to achieve great things, but recognize that nothing is guaranteed, and all the good they have today may be lost tomorrow. They never give up. They are pragmatic optimists and speak clearly and honestly about the world as it is. They are a high trust society. Their people are happy and hardworking. They cherish their freedoms.

Actually, none of the above is true, and the possibility of the above existing in a society like present day North Korea, the real North Korea, is impossible. Values are worth fighting for, because values make a society.