North Korea in US Propaganda: How the Media Distorts Your View of the DPRK

North Korea / DPRK in US PropagandaOn Tuesday, the White House confirmed that, for the first time, North Korea — whose actual name, by the way, is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US ( or part of Alaska, at least ). With his usual grace, Donald Trump responded swiftly by sending US forces to fire a bunch of our own missiles into the water near North Korea’s coast. Though it did surprisingly little to de-escalate the situation, the scent of American guns being fired near a darker-skinned country has ( again ) brought US media pundits across the political spectrum together to send a unified message to consumers. Whether Fox or CNN or MSNBC, the commentariat agree that North Korea is an evil dictatorship led by a bogeyman with nuclear weapons who plans to attack the USA for reasons none of us can know or control.

The real message, of course, is — be afraid.

How the US News-Media
Dehumanizes North Korea

During an emergency Security Council meeting on Wednesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley explained to the United Nations that North Korea was “quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution.” What Haley means by “solution,” however, is not often discussed by news media in the US. Trump also hinted at a mysterious solution in April during an interview with Financial Times, when he said that, “if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” This is apparently how the US reassures other countries that we are open to “the possibility of a diplomatic solution.”

But hold on — what problem are we solving, again?

North Korea, According to US Media

North Korea, Through the Lens of Google & US Media
North Korea, as it is shown to the English-speaking world by US media-outlets that typically control the first pages of search results 

The gist of the US media’s version of the story is that North Korea cannot be allowed to possess nuclear missiles because it is an aggressive dictatorship whose leaders hate the US. Some American news-show hosts will take it even further by confidently diagnosing Kim Jong Un, the current leader of the DPRK, as a madman in front of millions of their TV viewers. Even US politicians openly mock Kim Jong Un, like Senator John McCain who used Twitter to call the DPRK’s leader a “crazy fat kid” in March, earlier this year.

To anyone who accepts the media’s story as truth, the next move for the United States would seem pretty clear. If a crazy dictator really just obtained the ICBM technology he needs for his evil plan to fire nuclear missiles at us for no reason, then obviously the US ought to use force to protect its people from the impending nuclear holocaust. But this is not the Marvel universe, where the heroes leap into action after the evil CGI-villains move the plot forward by senselessly attacking crowds of terrified civilians. North Korea is not Mordor, Kim Jong Un is not a Dark Lord, North Koreans are not orcs, & one glance at history makes it pretty clear the US is not exactly the hero in many stories ( & particularly not in stories which take place in or around any part of Asia ).

What US Media Forgets to Mention
About the “North Korea Problem”

North Korea's First Successful ICBM test, nuclear weapons
The DPRK’s first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

One thing you are unlikely to see in US media is that, just after Haley lamented that the DPRK refuses all diplomatic solutions, the US refused an offer from North Korea to halt their nuclear program if US forces would only quit rehearsing invasions of North Korea next to the North Korean border. This news may be confusing to those in the US who are not often told that US forces have been hanging out on the North Korean border with loaded American guns for the last 64 years.

The US media also does not often tell people that every year since 1961 — that’s 56 years — US & ROK ( S. Korean ) forces have held the “Foal Eagle” military-exercises right by North Korea’s border, which are basically a rehearsal for invading the DPRK. These exercises began 7 years after the US Air Force quit bombing the DPRK in 1953 because, as their own reports detail, there was nothing left in North Korea to bomb.

“The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach the last time I was there. After I looked at the wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited.”
-General Douglas MacArthur

Pyongyang, North Korea, after American Bombs
North Korea’s largest city, Pyongyang, after US Air Force bombing during the Korean War

Considering history from North Korea’s perspective, would it be unreasonable for the DPRK to ask that the 23,468 American soldiers by the North Korean border be sent home or, at least, to one of many other US bases in the nearby Pacific? And yet the DPRK wants even less than that! How can the US say “no diplomatic solution is possible” while they refuse to even pause their war-games on North Korea’s doorstep in exchange for North Korea freezing their nuclear program? 

Fun Fact! The DPRK Has Never Attacked Another Country

Another minor detail which we never hear mentioned in US media is that North Korea has never attacked any other country. Or just 1, if you insist the DPRK’s attempt to unify Korea in 1950 counts as “invading,” which is totally unfair because they were both a part of one Korea for 1,000+ years before the UN split it in ’49 & so the DPRK saw it as an occupied part of Korea, not another nation. By analogy, to say North Korea “invaded” the South is about equal to saying Lincoln “invaded” Virginia during the Civil War — not exactly. Either way, is it not odd that people living in the United States — which has invaded at least 50 countries since WWII, including both Koreas — are taught to believe North Korea is aggressive?

US Military Bases Near North Korea/DPRK, Asia Pacific
Who is the aggressor here?

Ask yourself — is it more likely that real-life comic-book villains spent 72 years building an industrial nation but are planning to throw it away to inflict a mighty but non-fatal & ultimately suicidal instance of violence on millions of US strangers because they’re crazy? Or that North Koreans are rational people in the context of a traumatic history of colonization who have legitimate grievances with the US that — if we are brave enough to admit & address the hard truths of our history — we might conceivably be able to work with?

Beware of US Media Propaganda
— Don’t Let Them Start WWIII!

It has happened too often before — but it does not have to happen again. From the fictional innocence of the Lusitania justifying US entry into WWI & fictional aggressions in the Gulf of Tonkin that sentenced us to Vietnam to fictions of Iraqi WMDs & Syrian Sarin fiction, the US & its media assets have proven they will lie to you again & again. Now, Trump says he is considering “some very severe things” to retaliate for what he calls North Korea’s “very, very bad behavior” in successful testing an ICBM. We do not get to know what plans Captain Tiny-Hands or his oil-grubbing pals may have in store for US policy toward a new, inter-continentally ballistic DPRK but, whatever Nikki Haley tells the UN, I’m betting it won’t be overly diplomatic. We do, however, know that the more people who question the media’s fictions, the more who choose to do the math themselves, the harder it will be for the US Empire to justify their next war. 

So keep asking questions — & give ’em hell.

In solidarity,
John Laurits

P.S. I’ve just learned Tulsi Gabbard, US Representative for Hawaii & one of a few sensible US politicians, issued a statement on the topic and I thought I’d include some of her thoughts here:
“The North Korean regime witnessed the regime change wars the U.S. led in Libya and Iraq and what we’re now doing in Syria, and fear they will become like Gadhafi who, after giving up his nuclear weapons program, was deposed by the United States.
As long as the U.S. is waging regime change wars, we are far less likely to reach a diplomatic solution in North Korea because they have no reason to believe our promises.  In fact, we are far more likely to see nuclear proliferation by countries like North Korea who see nuclear weapons as their only deterrent against regime change.
Serious diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula will require an end to our regime change war in Syria and a public statement that the U.S. will not engage in regime change wars and nation-building overseas, including in Iran and North Korea. We should focus our limited resources on rebuilding our own country and seriously commit ourselves to de-escalating this dangerous stand-off with North Korea and negotiate a peaceful diplomatic solution.” -US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Read the whole text at this link)

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Leon Stephens
Excellent. And I would say very complete, but there’s always something more to tell about US aggression, especially with regard to North Korea, hard to get to the end of it. Speaking of math, it looks like Pyongyang had 1 intercontinental ballistic missile, and since it went off successfully, I suppose they’ll build another one. No, seriously, they probably have 6, possibly even 10. How many such weapons does the US have? – I make that numerical speculation knowing that in 1954 US intelligence determined that the USSR had exactly 4 nuclear warheads, and presumably the same number of missiles to launch them, whereas the US had about… Read more »
Thank goodness someone speaks the truth. The US will go down in history as the most bloodthirsty and brutal regime the world has ever seen. We are NOT ‘the good guys’, and have not been for a very long time. We range death and destruction throughout the world in the name of Imperialistic ambition and profit. If WE don’t change this horror that we are, then, really, we NEED to be stopped by someone. All of our pretending that we are so great, so free, such a great nation. Really. Truth is the daughter of Time. Our role in world history is shameful. With over 1000 US military… Read more »
Leon Stephens

Here’s the link to an article in CounterPunch that tells about some of the difficulties and delays in the development of an ICBM. The main problem is developing a reentry vehicle that can withstand temperatures of up to 7000 degrees C. North Korea, says the author, will perhaps accomplish that in about ten years. (So much for the imminent threat.) And it contains more interesting information.