North Korea: Brutal living conditions inside Kim Jong-un’s state exposed

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Little is known about life inside Kim Jong-un’s state due to their extreme isolation from the world and heavy censorship of news. What we do know about the hermit kingdom is garnered from defectors’ accounts, reports from humanitarian organisations and satellite photographs. Robert King, the former special envoy for North Korean human rights, gave his damning verdict on conditions for its citizens.

Prior to current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, the state’s founder Kim Il-sung and his successor Kim Jong-il covered up startling details about the public’s welfare – most notably famine in the nation. 

While they were reported to have lived luxurious lifestyles with expensive wines, cheese and chocolate, many in the nation battled hunger and starvation.

Even under their new ruler, the United Nations estimated that 10.5 million people – 41 percent of the nation – are “malnourished” in a 2017 report.

Some believe this level of secrecy has been mirrored during the coronavirus pandemic too, as the nation still maintains it has zero cases despite there being more than 20.6 million infections worldwide. 

There is also minimal information about life outside of Pyongyang, the nation’s capital, which is the richest part of the state.

Outside the city it’s believed that conditions are dreadfully worse – but few outsiders are allowed access to those areas. 

Mr King, a former US ambassador, who visited the nation’s capital in January 2005, commented on the inequalities likely experienced within the state.

He divulged information about his trip, while the nation was under Kim Jong-il’s rule, to ‘The Impossible State’ podcast in April this year.  

Mr King said: “North Korea was a very less developed place [back then], it was not a place where there were a lot of resources available for energy. 

“We stayed in a hotel for government officials and the only part of the hotel that was heated was in the rooms.

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“You could actually see your breath as you were walking down the halls in the hotel rooms.”

Mr King felt this privilege was unlikely to be experienced by working or lower class citizens.

He added: “It was an indication of what life was like in North Korea.

“If this was what it was like for important guests, the average man on the street in North Korea and particularly those outside of Pyongyang were living under much worse conditions.”

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