North Korea has become a common topic of conversation in the United States lately, as many fear their missile program and unwillingness to negotiate with the international community may result in a military standoff that could potentially turn nuclear.  America has been at the forefront of this issue, but many other nations have voiced their support.  Even North Korea’s primary ally, China, has begun to make nice with President Trump to a certain extent; acknowledging that even they must play a role in limiting Kim Jong Un’s access to weapons of mass destruction.

Here in the States, we argue and debate about the missile strike in Syria, the MOAB in Afghanistan, and the potential for war with North Korea.  Out politicians hash it out on national television, our president makes statements about seeking a diplomatic solution if at all possible, and our media and culture tends to paint taking military action as a negative thing – our society values human life, and in particular, the lives of innocent civilians.  Since Vietnam, we as people have romanticized real warfare less, as we’ve come to understand that war is often inextricably tied to the suffering of the innocent, and as such, should be considered the last option to be employed.

North Korea, on the other hand, doesn’t benefit from the public discussion of differing viewpoints, or the freedom of a press that shows us the reality of war.  The people in the reclusive Asian nation are permitted to consume only media distributed through state-owned outlets, and because the Kim dynasty does not require elections, there are no political debates to witness.

This aligns North Korea as an interesting sociological experiment.  While we may attempt to study the media choices employed by totalitarian regimes of the past like Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, North Korea allows us to see, in real-time, what a despot will do to manage the perceptions of his people.  One such opportunity came last weekend, as North Korea celebrated the birth of Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, and the founder of their republic.  Kim Il Sung is such an important figure in North Korea, they restarted their calendar to reflect his birth as the very beginning of time – meaning it is not the year 2017 in North Korea, but rather the year 105; a fact displayed by the military aircraft flying above their parade in the form of those very numbers.

While American Fourth of July celebrations often end with fireworks, North Korea opted for something a bit different. Kim Jong Un watched as an orchestra played over a brief video that opened with patriotic images like we might see in our own celebrations, but closed with a scene depicting a North Korean missile strike on a coastal American city.  The explosion gives way to a view of a burning American flag waving above the white crosses at Arlington National Cemetery.

Outside of North Korea, watching their day of celebration culminate in a fictitious depiction of murdering thousands, or millions, of innocent people seems a bit… harsh, but for North Koreans that are raised to believe their strife is the product of a world led by the United States and bent on their destruction, it likely seems almost ordinary.

You can watch the final bit of their celebration below: complete with our own destruction at the end.