The U.S. is a “living hell” and Americans live “wretched lives” according to a news analysis released by North Korea, a rebuttal to the highly-critical United Nations report that revealed the country's widespread torture and forced abductions. But interestingly, the report by the Korea Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run media outlet, doesn't entirely read like the parody it should be. Instead, it touches on hot-button issues that drive political campaigns, and make some valid, albeit hyperbolic, points about the worst aspects of American life.
Calling the U.S. “the world’s worst human rights abuser,” the KCNA report opens by identifying America’s shameful and continuing problem with racism. “The gaps between the minorities and the whites are very wide,” the report says, and uses George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict (it incorrectly says he's a policeman) in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, “an innocent black boy,” as a prime example. There's disbelief over the fact that President Barack Obama, who “indulges himself in luxury almost every day,” asked for that verdict to be respected.
American unemployment, soaring housing prices, and poverty are other reasons “[t]he U.S. is a living hell as elementary rights to existence are ruthlessly violated,” according to the report. North Korea is frequently accused of persistent and widespread famine, so the country must be overjoyed to report that in New York City, “20-odd percent of the children are in the grip of famine” and "the number of impoverished people [in the U.S.] increased to 46.5 millions last year." According to U.S. Census data, in 2012 the official poverty rate was 46.5 million, but in New York City, while 31 percent of children are living in poverty, (according to data from the Annie E. Casey, a group that tracks the well-being of children in the U.S.), the "grip of famine" is perhaps an overstatement.
The report also lists NSA and government surveillance, lax gun control, and gun-related crimes as other human rights abuses committed by the U.S. Unsurprisingly, the analysis does have some false information, including the claim that the U.S. topped a U.N. list of the world’s worst country for homicide last month; that honor actually went to Honduras. And even North Korea, a country where famine has caused cannibalism to exist, sees an increase in private prisons as a failure for human rights, but cites the questionable source of "Russian TV" while doing so.
Writing at the BBC, Anthony Zurcher has rounded up reactions to the report from American journalists. There’s a consensus over North Korea’s hyperbole, and sometimes loose grip on the English language, but at least Americans know about their country's moral deficits and have the option to change it. At PolicyMic, Matt Essert notes, "Americans can openly complain about their country and government without fearing a trip to the work camp."
But they also agree that it’s frightening that North Korea, of all countries, can remind people of some dreadful aspects of life in America. According to The Washington Post's Adam Taylor, the gun crime is the only part of the report that is "truly debatable."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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