North Korea is a country shrouded in mystery and intrigue, with a reputation for suppression and a penchant for aggravating Western governments. Only very recently president-elect Donald Trump tweeted about their worrying claim that they've built long range ballistic nuclear missiles that can reach the US. But much about the so-called "rogue nation" and its culture is a secret. We're aware that life there isn't great, but it's not known exactly what it's like to live under such an oppressive regime.
However, one way that the West does get to learn about life under the cult of supreme leader Kim Jong-un is through defectors. Last month YouTube channel Asian Boss interviewed two young North Korean defectors about what it was like living there.
They paint a pretty bleak and grim picture, which includes starvation due to a famine which one defector says has claimed 3 million lives, public executions which everyone over 12 years old is forced to watch, and a lack of electricity in the cold winter months. Traveling between states is also problematic, and that combined with state controlled media means people never know about protests that might be going on in different areas, which means that any unrest can be easily contained.
If you do try to escape, there are soldiers hiding underground waiting to shoot anyone who attempts to flee across frozen rivers on the borders with China. One defector explains how she bribed soldiers beforehand however to not shoot at her, and that's how she managed to escape. If you haven't got the funds though and you do get caught escaping, after three attempts you'll be publicly executed as an example.
It all sounds like something that would leave anyone living there seriously depressed, but surprisingly when the interviewer asks if they think people in North Korea are generally happy, one defector replies. "In my opinion, even if people are starving and having a tough time, they are always laughing...I think, the more well off a country, the more stressed the people because they think too much. North Korea may be a poor country but North Koreans have more warmth and care for one another. I think they are generally very happy."
Maybe, but they're also brainwashed and conditioned by years of hardship living under the tyranny of Kim Jong-un and his father.