It absolutely is hyperbole. The price for these testimonies has reached one million dollars. There is a clear incentive to lie and make up things that cannot be verified independently or are outright false. Several high profile defectors have changed their stories so many times they are not credible. Some have been outed for lying and making things up. Mind you, this is while racist caricatures are going around that the people of DPRK believe they landed on the sun, unicorns are real, and Kim Jong-un fed his uncle to 120 rabid dogs. All of which were false. When you spread disinformation about DPRK while it is being existentially threatened, you inadvertently embolden US imperialist “foreign policy.” US “foreign policy” is not a policy, it is the logic of capitalist imperialism. It needs to expand and crack open new markets to dump its surplus value and start a new accumulation process. It forces nations into submission through sanctions, war, and other means of political, social, and economic terrorism. DPRK was born in war; the war is still going on now, and is the most sanctioned nation on earth. So it would be wise to not just take for fact what the corporate mainstream media purports to be fact and be at the very least skeptical. Moreover, the trope of Third World leaders being “despots” is rooted in American exceptionalism and orientalism. It posits everywhere that is not the “First World” as either being 1) run by some backwards oriental despot figure who controls mindless drones — not humans but just people who are only “controlled” through state propaganda 2) people who are in need of saving — by someone, usually the “international community” which is a euphemism for the Western imperialist states, the former colonizers themselves. You seem to brush off the 3 million North Koreans who died from US imperialist aggression, the crippling sanctions, the war games and threats, the racist caricatures, and the like, but claim that the DPRK government (not a perfect government, never will be, doesn’t exist) is somehow specially repressive for some reason. Not like we aren’t fed propaganda about DPRK right??? How could a government so repressive maintain itself for so long without massive upheaval? The people must be so brainwashed no? No, they are fiercely patriotic and have not forgotten what their past aggressors have done to them. While there are problems of the DPRK government of course, I am curious about this “countless” suffering and “neglect.” Take this into perspective, Between 1994 and 1998, North Korea experienced a terrible famine resulting in approximately 240,000 deaths. It’s a mountainous nation, with only about 20% arable land and only about six months of time when that land is free of frost. They were operating (and continue to operate) under a tremendously oppressive trade embargo. Their largest trade partner and source of food aid, the USSR, had collapsed a mere three years prior to the famine. 240,000 people starved. It was horrible.
During those same four years, the United States was in the midst of the DotCom boom — the single longest period of sustained economic growth in its history. Annual GDP growth of 2.1%. Economists were worried about the national debt being paid down too fast. Around 25% of all food produced was thrown into the garbage. 160,000 people died homeless in the street.
Lies, damn lies, and statistics — the numbers need to be taken in the context of population size (22 million in DPRK, vs 270 million in the US circa 1998). Nevertheless, we should ask ourselves very seriously why we conceive of one of these as a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable scope while the other is considered so marginal that it hardly deserves a mention.
The truth is that North Korea considers the famine, which they called The Arduous March, a terrible tragedy. Ours has no name. It isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t even business as usual; it’s a period of noteworthy prosperity. Why? Who is telling this story, and who benefits from it being told this way?